Part of the About Southern Maryland series
For nearly 40 years, the international organization Special Olympics has empowered individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. The organization offers year-round physical fitness training and competition; children as young as six years old can take part in the physical fitness training, and children as young as eight can compete.
Through Special Olympics, athletes are encouraged to improve their physical fitness and become productive, respected members of society. More than 1.7 million children and adults in more than 150 countries have participated in these events at the local, district, state, national, and international levels with competitors of similar abilities.
In 1969, Special Olympics arrived in St. Mary’s County; the current county director, Mary Lu Bucci, has been in office since 1990. Ms. Bucci first became involved with Special Olympics because her son wanted to become an athlete; today, her motivation is much more than that.
“In our society, people with mental or developmental disabilities tend not to get as many opportunities as the rest of us,” says Ms. Bucci. “Special Olympics gives these individuals the opportunity to achieve greatness—not just by winning, but by putting 100 percent effort into what they are doing. And along the way, the friendships they make—the joy that these friendships bring into their lives—is truly priceless.”
In St. Mary’s County, Special Olympics athletes can participate in one or more of 14 sports, the most popular of which are track, soccer, basketball, and swimming. About two-thirds of athletes are school-age children and one-third are adults. In all, more than 250 athletes from St. Mary’s County participate in Special Olympics each year.
New volunteers and corporate sponsorships are always welcome. A wide variety of donations are needed, such as supplies, facilities, and of course, money. To find out how you can get involved with Special Olympics in St. Mary’s County, or if you know someone who might be interested in becoming an athlete, call 301-373-3469 or contact by e-mail.