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Jan 16, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Powell makes Special Olympics 'official'

Of note in the news is the announcement that Powell High School has formed a new varsity sports team.

No, it isn't girls softball, coed hockey or sprint pogo-sticking. The Powell Panthers aren't adding competitive video-gaming or cup-stacking to the proud tradition of school sports.

It's a Special Olympics team.

After an informal affiliation with Special Olympics competitors for years, last month Park County School District 1 voted to adopt the Special Olympics team as an official school activity.

Team members will wear the orange-and-black uniform of Powell High School. There is a team sponsor and a team coach. The kids can ride the school bus to competition. And, in the ultimate sign of "arrival," Special Olympics has its own line in the school district budget, right there beside marching band, volleyball, and the speech team.

Fremont County schools might want to watch this development with interest. Might this be something that could be tried here?

There is something about wearing the uniform of the local high school that adds an extra measure of community pride and importance, both for the competitors and the community. It serves to build and maintain a sense of unity among all contributing parties, and it assures greater recognition as well. And it certainly gives developmentally challenged kids a new avenue for assimilation and participation in the mainstream.

There is more to this than meets the eye, no doubt. There are challenges tied to organization, staffing, budgets and administration. A Special Olympics team wouldn't be the same as the football team, for many reasons. Support for it among elected school board members, school faculty and the public are bound to vary from place to place.

The level of commitment might vary as well. For some schools it simply could be a matter of providing uniforms with the school colors to a Special Olympics group. Others might provide coaching, transportation and travel vouchers -- or any level of support in between.

Powell has initiated an innovative program with elements for all to observe. Park County District 1's move to official recognition and inclusion of Special Olympics kids in its school activities as a full-fledged Powell Panthers program is a welcoming and encouraging step that other Wyoming school districts and communities ought to applaud and, perhaps, emulate if circumstances permit.

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