When it comes to Special Olympics in Alaska, Kodiak serves as a model for the rest of the state. Nicolle Egan is the vice president and chief operating officer for the statewide Special Olympics and said Kodiak’s strong program has helped advance the entire organization. Egan was in Kodiak last week to meet with various local entities about the local, state, national and worldwide organization. She said more than 170 countries participate in Special Olympics, which provides sports training and competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Locally, more than 40 athletes compete year round on behalf of Kodiak.
She said the organization is rooted in sports, but is also shifting in terms of what it provides individuals and communities.
-- (Special O 1 :41 “We’re still a sports
organization, 150 percent a sports organization, but we’re actually
working toward health and education as well, and using sports to promote
health to our athletes and their families. And using sports to promote
education, so for example, unified sports. Playing that is an education
in itself. But it gets people that don’t have disabilities to
participate in the program and they go out and tell their story at the
office the next day and it just kind of moves forward like that. But the
health and education piece is going to become bigger and bigger and so
we’re really working on working closely with the volunteers on allowing
them to keep continuing the sports but also expand to possibly providing
Unified Sports is a push to put athletes with
intellectual disabilities in the same realm of competition and training
as athletes without those disabilities. Egan said the program helps
break down a lot of stigmas and social barriers toward people with
intellectual disabilities. She added that Kodiak has championed some of
these efforts already.
-- (Special O 2 :29
“There’s a lot of fear about sometimes working with someone with a
disability that we’re just working day to day to surpass that. Kodiak
High School has what’s called a partners club and that is a club that
puts kids in that school without disabilities together with athletes to
get them more engaged in the environment and do sports. In fact, they’re
about to start unified track, and they’re a few special Olympic
athletes that will be training with the high school team, that’s the
goal anyways, they’re going to be training with the high school team and
competing in high school meets.”)
Egan said the shift to
include health and wellness teaching in Special Olympics will benefit
from a new building that is specifically designed for volunteers and
athletes of the organization.
-- (Special O 3 :34
“This spring we’ll be breaking ground for a new building in Anchorage
that’s called the Special Olympics Alaska Athlete Training Center and
Campus. And the focus is health and wellness for people with
intellectual disabilities and their families, through Special Olympics.
So it’s going to be a campus basically. We’ve got a full court gym
coming in a two lane track up above it, several classrooms to be able to
provide classes. And our goal is that it is the resource for people
across the state for people with intellectual disabilities and
volunteers to come in and get trained and you know we can provide more
tournaments and leagues because we don’t have to pay for the facility
because we own it.”)
She said funding for the new building
came from capitol money. The facility is fully paid off and is now an
asset to the organization. Egan emphasized that no operational funds
went into the building, so nothing that could have been spent on travel
or providing events for the athletes.
The United States will hold
national games in 2014, and the next world games will be in Los Angeles
in 2015. Meanwhile, Kodiak athletes will compete in the Alaska Winter
Games, which start on Friday.