BENSENVILLE, Ill. - It's prime season for golf instruction and this week at White Pines Golf Club there was a special kind of full-game clinic with athletes young and old lining up for a chance to call themselves champions.
“Our athletes are eight and above so this event actually has a lot of 8-year-olds," noted Special Olympics Area 5 Director Katie Grisham. "It’s a good way to come in and get introduced to the Special Olympics. At eight, they can start competing with Special Olympics. We group people by their like abilities. Their scores are all combined and we division them by like abilities, gender, and age.
Those who win gold qualify for the Outdoor Sports Festival in Decatur this fall, which could lead to a shot at the USA Games or even the World Games.
But generally, fun remains the driving force for both the players and the volunteers who help them along the way.
“Just being out there and being with friends and family, I just love it,” said Amy, a fellow Special Olympics athlete.
"The biggest high you could ever get is leaving here having seen a youngster hug you," remarked Marty Joyce, a golf instructor and one of the organizers of the event. "One of my girls came up and said ‘Coach Marty, Missy told me you changed my life through golf' and then she smiled and hugged me and I left in tears. If that doesn’t pump someone up nothing will."
"Special Olympics is a volunteer run organization. We can not do what we do without the help of volunteers," explained Grisham.
If you are interested in volunteering, coaching or participating go to http://www.soill.org.