Special Olympics soccer event a hit for both athletes and volunteers
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Alan Gordon calls it “one of our favorite parts” of the fall sports season.
Gordon, the head men’s soccer coach at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and women’s coach Trevor Parent bring members of their teams to the MMG Special Olympics Soccer Event, which is held annually and took place Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Park Family Field on the UMPI campus.
“It gives our athletes a chance to give back to the community and appreciate what they have,” said Gordon, who added that several physical education students at the university also volunteer.
One of those is Ryan Sanderson, a senior from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, who said he has learned a lot from his involvement in the program.
“It keeps students involved and it’s nice to get experience working with those with special needs,” Sanderson said.
Between 80 and 90 athletes from the region participated in this year’s event. The group split into teams and played several round-robin games throughout the morning, with winning teams recognized at the end of the event.
Spencer King has directed the event the past four years and said the company he works for, Maine Mutual Group in Presque Isle, is in its 22nd year of involvement.
“We get help from a lot of individuals,” King said. “MMG provides volunteers from each department and we try to get new people to come each year.
“Players on the UMPI soccer teams do the organizing and coaching, officials from the local soccer officiating board help out, and the athletes love getting their awards from local law enforcement officers,” he said, adding that there were plenty of those on hand to distribute.
King said that Crown Ambulance members volunteer their services during the day and local National Honor Society members come by to support the athletes and vote on the MMG Sportsmanship Award recipient. David Blakely received this year’s honor.
Patrick McDougall, who participates in programs through the Central Aroostook Association which provides services for adults with developmental disabilities, said this was his 12th year playing in the event.
“I love soccer and always have,” said McDougall, whose favorite position is goalkeeper. “I have taken a lot of punishment, but I’m rugged and I can take it.
“It’s fun to be here and be able to play against a lot of different teams.”