Local athletes took part in Special Olympics national event
Shrewsbury – For the Ciociolo family of Holden, the Special Olympics is about more than sports, it’s a chance to have a shared family experience. That was the message at a fund-raising event in Shrewsbury July 9 as Special Olympics athlete Mike Ciociolo, 22, prepared to head off to the Special Olympics USA National Games held July 18 to 23 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Mike competed in golf on a team with older brother James, 25, a unified partner in the program. To raise funds, James and Mike stood roadside on Route 9 in front of TD Bank, which hosted the event, waving at cars and hoping motorists might stop and make a donation.
“This gives Mikey and I a chance to compete together as brothers,” James explained. “And I don’t know who has more fun, me or Mikey.”
The Ciociolo’s connection with Special Olympics, an organization that aims to encourage and empower people with intellectual disabilities through sporting events, goes back more than a decade. Mike and James’s mother, Chris Ciociolo, first enrolled Mike, who has Down Syndrome, in Shrewsbury’s special needs sports program when he was a child and got him involved in gymnastics. Over time, he eventually began to play soccer and basketball, too. His younger sister Melissa, 20, played soccer and basketball with Mike as a unified partner starting at age 7, up until her early teens, when he began to get into playing golf with his brother. The unified sports program meant brother and sister were able to play together despite very diff erent levels of ability.
“When we were little, I didn’t realize Mikey was different,” Melissa said. “As I matured, Mikey sort of stayed in the same spot. But this gave us something we could do together.”
Colin Davidson, 27, of Northborough, headed to the national games for his second time. Davidson, who competes in soccer, said besides the competition, the event means meeting new people; athletes from every state who are all there to have fun.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a huge opportunity to make new friends.”
From July 18 to 23 nearly 3,000 athletes competed in 13 Olympic-style sports, with the support of 1,000 coaches, 8,000 volunteers and an estimated 15,000 family and friends, according to fact sheet released by Special Olympics officials.
Other area athletes who attended the games include: Jeff ery Cole, Brian Mills, and Marc Russell of Northborough; Ryan Dixon, Jason Dore, Greg Gallant, Matt Millett, Joe Walsh, Michael Wilson and Liz Fossum of Shrewsbury. Area coaches are: bocce coach Mike Diggins of Shrewsbury; golf coach Scott Ayres of Northborough; and soccer coaches Bob Docimo and Steve Dixon of Shrewsbury.
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