WHEATON – Sean Doran of Wheaton is a four-sport athlete. He plays basketball, bocce ball, bowling and track and field, but his favorite is basketball.
“My favorite is just running around and shooting hoops,” Doran, 20, said.
A member of Wheaton Warrenville Community Unit School District 200’s transitional program, Doran participates in these sports through the district Special Olympics program. The community will have an opportunity to support their Special Olympics athletes at Bowl for the Torch Saturday at Fox Bowl in Wheaton.
Special Olympics helps teach athletes problem-solving and team-building skills that help them to grow into independent leaders both on and off the court, said Adam Ferguson, director of Special Services for the district.
“To me, that’s a lot of the cool part of this is seeing the growth of the kids, not only in the sports world but just in their lives,” Ferguson said, who acts as the athletic director for Special Olympics.
Special Olympics started nine years ago in CUSD 200, beginning with track and field and eventually expanding to include basketball, bowling and bocce ball as well, Ferguson said. While middle schoolers are able to participate in track and field, bocce ball and bowling, basketball does not begin until high school.
About 20 athletes participate in Special Olympics in the district, ranging from students in middle school to those in the transitional program for 18- to 21-year-olds, he said.
In the last nine years, district teams and individuals have competed at the state level in every sport, although for the program, it’s never been about winning and losing, Ferguson said.
“For us, it’s about are the students having a good time? Are they engaging with their peers? Are they working together?” he said. “If they’re doing all those things, then winning should come.”
Wheaton residents and Special Olympics athletes Sarah Curiale, 20, and LaDrevon “Dre” Harper, 21, both play three sports. For Curiale, it’s basketball, track and bocce ball, while Harper plays basketball, track and bowling. Basketball is the favorite of both athletes.
Curiale and Harper said they like the time they’re able to spend with their friends on the team, like Doran and another player, Anna.
Bowl for the Torch helps to showcase the athletes and increase awareness for the program, while simultaneously raising money to help pay for equipment, uniforms and travel, Ferguson said. Special Olympics is not supported by district funds.
The fundaiser will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday at Fox Bowl, 1101 Butterfield Rd. in Wheaton, where the Special Olympics bowling team practices. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door and include two games of bowling, shoes and pizza. The event will include raffle prizes as well.
Having Special Olympics in CUSD 200 not only benefits students with disabilities but also other students in the district, Ferguson said. The district community is able to see that all athletes have their own unique sets of challenges and strengths, he said. The high level of achievement at Special Olympics competitions may correct some misconceptions.
“I talk to a lot of people, and when I tell them I’m a Special Olympics coach, they say, ‘Oh, you must have a lot of patience,’ and ‘Oh, that’s great that you’re able to do that,’” he said. “But then they actually come to an event and realize we have a lot of fun.”