Pleasanton Weekly

Sports - March 28, 2014

Rockets take home three gold medals

Volunteers help make Special Olympics a winning event

by Ken Mano

The Tri-Valley Rockets started out as a basketball team with a bunch of little kids a few years ago. These kids with developmental disabilities practiced once a week and participated in the Special Olympics basketball tournament each year in Pleasanton.

Most of these "kids" have now graduated from high school, but they're still together and usually practice in January until the tournament in March. They now have three teams on three different levels and each won the gold medal in its level.

At the recent Special Olympics, the Tri-Valley Rockets participated in the two-day basketball tournament held at Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton Middle School and Harvest Park Middle School.

This was the 11th year that the Amador Valley Athletic Boosters hosted the Special Olympics events for basketball, track and volleyball. The original purpose of participating in Special Olympics was to give local athletes the opportunity to "give back" to the community. Since then, athletes, students, parents as well as other community organizations have volunteered to provide this service to the Special Olympics athletes.

Basketball had 65 teams participating from Monterey to Napa, and 420 volunteers from Amador Valley High School, Foothill High School, NCL, BTC, LDS, Sai Baba and other community groups. Greg Thome, one of the active boosters from prior years, coordinated and scheduled 60 referees this year. Thome recently received a Distinguished Service Award from the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce.

Opening Ceremonies were held each day with Kevin Johnson, senior director of Pleasanton Unified School District, and Jamie Hintzke, president of the PUSD school board, giving the welcoming addresses. The PUSD and AVHS support Special Olympics by providing the facilities for these events.

Many of the volunteers return year after year, with one lunch volunteer saying it was her sixth year. Others who volunteer have said this is a great family activity and they participate every year. Some high school volunteers have chosen special education and other special-needs fields because of the volunteer experience.

The Boosters continue to support Special Olympics by hosting the games, providing volunteers and T-Shirts for the volunteers, and running a snack bar for the track meet, donating the proceeds to Special Olympics.

The next events will be track and volleyball, hosted by the Boosters on May 3.

Ken Mano is the Special Olympics Coordinator for the Amador Valley High School Athletic Boosters.

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