All hands on deck

Register File Photo

The Madison County Special Olympics athletes pose for picture with the Richmond Police Department before the start of last year's Summer Games.

The Special Olympics Kentucky is currently seeking volunteers for the upcoming State Summer Games in Madison County.

According to Volunteer Services Manager Kelli Firquin, they are in need of roughly 100 to 150 volunteers to help out throughout the course of the event.

This year marks a large milestone for the Special Olympics as it celebrates 25 years of the Summer Games at Eastern Kentucky University.

"Our partnership with EKU is unmatched! Those that work on campus know that the first weekend in June is the annual date of the games and they anticipate our arrival year after year," Firquin said. "We are so excited to celebrate this irreplaceable partnership with EKU alongside the 1,400 athletes that will be competing!"

But Firquin and the Olympians can't do it alone. That's why they are calling for all hands on deck. The Summer Games is one of the largest competitive events of the year, with more than 1,000 athletes competing in five different sports. That translates into needing plenty of hands to help out.

Around 600 individuals are needed to successfully facilitate the entire event, according to Firquin. The organization relies on hundreds of community members to devote their time to the program that will span across two days, Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1.

"We are team of under 20 full-time staff members, a competition of this magnitude simply could not be done without the giving hearts of our incredible volunteers," she said.

Saturday is the primary day of action, Firquin said, which means it is the day of the greatest need. Volunteers will assist with many different tasks such as: coordinating lunches and delivering them throughout competition venues; helping with the track and field competition staging athletes so they are in order for their races; the softball throw event, swimming, bocce, and more.

Firquin said volunteers do not need to have previous volunteering experience to participate.

"We welcome individuals or varying ages, interests and experience levels," Firquin said. "We even have roles for those without specific knowledge of the various sports. There is a way for anyone and everyone to get involved."

The only caveat is all volunteers under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult. But, all volunteers receive a Summer Games t-shirt and lunch for those who help out on Saturday. But that's not all they get.

"(They get) many joyful moments shared with our athletes," Firquin said.

To view all volunteer opportunities for the State Summer Games and sign-up visit, http://soky.org/volunteernow/, or contact Firquin at 502-695-8222 or kfirquin@soky.org.

The kick-off for the Summer Games starts in Frankfort on May 31 with the opening of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg at 9 a.m. and continues on until it reaches Richmond, where it is run by Richmond Police Department officers at 4:15 to the Ravine on EKU's campus.

Following the torch run, opening ceremonies will commence at 6:45 p.m. and includes a parade of athletes and the lighting of the Special Olympics cauldron. The cauldron will be lit by 2018 Special Olympics Kentucky Athlete of the Year Jennifer Hamilton of Owensboro and the Games will be declared open by 2018 Coach of the Year Leigh Toby. In the event of bad weather, the Opening Ceremonies will be held in Alumni Coliseum.

Some of the activities will start Friday evening but the main action gets started Saturday morning, where the athletes will compete in track and field, swimming, bocce, soccer and rhythmic gymnastics.

The public is encouraged to attend the Opening Ceremonies and all competitions. All are open to the public and there is no admission charge. Most competitions on Saturday will be underway by 9 a.m.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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