By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
The Pierz Schools Special Olympics program has been named the 2013 Special Olympics Minnesota Outstanding Delegation. While Pierz has only participated in the program for three years, it’s being honored for its focus on creating an inclusive environment for all the athletes plus the surrounding community.
“We have lots of fun, we try our best and we all work well together,” said coach Patti Block. “Someone thinks we do good things.”
Block got involved when another coach moved away.
“I found the experience to be amazing. The competition is overwhelming. The kids are always trying their hardest and are so happy to just be competing, win or lose. They also bring out the best in us, the coaches. They always have their game on.”
Brian Hartwig, the physical education teacher at Pioneer Elementary School, said, “We are excited about the program, we are slowly building it and we are new. Leah Wolkow, the Special Olympics Minnesota sports program associate who nominated the school for the award, said we are easy to work with and have a lot of passion.”
Pierz Athletic Director Dave Rocheleau said the school was nominated becasue it best exemplified the spirit of Special Olympics in Minnesota.
“Our coaches help the athletes by giving them a good experience and a fun time which is more important than winning,” he said.
The Pierz Special Olympics program trainers/coaches include Sandy Swaser, Ashley Otremba, Hartwig and Block.
Currently, Pierz offers bowling competition in October. The students are now practicing in Little Falls.
The school offers aquatics and unified basketball, which has competition in the winter and track and field in May.
The unified basketball competition has been hosted at Pierz for the past two years. It consists of three special athletes and two main-stream athletes per team on the court. The schools participating include Staples, Pillager, Pequot Lakes and Pierz.
“Many of our students compete in all four sports,” said Block. “The students need to be in the fourth grade to compete, but may begin practicing at any age.”
Wolkow said of Pierz, “The coaches are willing to do anything for their athletes. They truly care about them and the program.”