Special athletes show heart, competitive spirit in Civitan event

Published 5:38 pm Monday, June 21, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- James Jordan may have best characterized the attitude of the Niles Civitan's Summer Games with his statement before competing in the 100-meter race.
Just minutes later, the humble Jordan made his way to the track and took first place in a convincing fashion.
This was the selfless outlook displayed by all of the 22 developmentally disabled adults competing in Saturday's Summer Games at the Niles High School football field.
Niles Civitan president-elect Pam Marshall explained the service organization is dedicated to helping developmentally disabled adults and senior citizens in our community.
With events like 100-meter walks and runs, the long jump and a softball toss, the adults were given the opportunity to display their athletic abilities.
In a competition that rewards individual achievement, this group of athletes looked more like one big team as they watched each competition intently and cheerfully rooted on their peers.
Marshall said the one of the aims of the Summer Games is to provide a unique social experience for the adults.
In addition to being a social event, former Niles Civitan president Gloria Parker said the Summer Games also provides some physical and mental exercise for the participants in a competitive atmosphere.
Irene Whitaker, a participant in the 50-meter walk, was proud to announce the progress she had made from one year to the next.
Last year, she had to use a cane to compete in the walk. This year, Whitaker triumphantly completed the race without the assistance of a cane.
And while finishing the walk was important to her, Whitaker came to the Summer Games for another reason – the people.
Becky Callahan, who walked in the 100-meter race, agreed it was the people that made the Summer Games so much fun.
The competitive events were followed by a pizza lunch donated by Pine Lake Pizza, who has been supporting the Niles Civitan's Summer Games since it began nine years ago.
Saturday's event concluded with an award ceremony that recognized each and every athlete. First, second and third place finishers were given medals and all of the participants were given ribbons.
Parker said another important aspect of the event is that it gives these adults a local event that is similar to the Special Olympics.