Local Special Olympics athletes traded in their running shoes and swimming caps for paint brushes on Monday to prepare for this weekend’s Summer Games.
The Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games are Friday through Sunday in Bloomington-Normal. Local athletes got together to paint the windows of the Children’s Discovery Museum in Uptown Normal to welcome all of the visiting athletes and families.
Director of Museum Experiences and Engagement Shelly Hanover was with the athletes and said the museum is excited to be part of the Special Olympics.
“This is a way that we can welcome those athletes that come into Uptown Normal,” Hanover said.
Jim Fitzpatrick, a regional director of the Special Olympics Illinois, said they are expecting around 4,000 athletes from all over the state to participate in the Summer Games this year. In addition to painting the windows on Monday, Fitzpatrick said Special Olympics teamed up with the museum and the Town of Normal to plan a fun-filled weekend for the athletes and visitors.
On Saturday the town will hold a movie night at the Normal Theater and a street dance for all the athletes and their friends and families.
“It’s amazing to see thousands of athletes in the streets of Normal,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s my favorite day of the year ... it really is.”
Fitzpatrick said Bloomington-Normal hosting the Summer Games is a big deal for the area. With all of the athletes, coaches, friends, families and volunteers coming into the town for the weekend, Fitzpatrick said the community will feel the impact—including the fully booked hotels.
“This is a proud thing for Normal to host...this is why we do it. To get to the end of it and you walk around the venues and you see the medals go around the necks, then you know why you put in all the hours,” Fitzpatrick said.
Most of the sporting events will take place at Illinois State University, but a few will be at Normal Community West high school, Kingsley Junior High, and Illinois Wesleyan University. The Special Olympics Illinois are still accepting volunteer applications on its website.
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