The exceptional athletes of Mary Campbell Center
By David Lynch
This month while observing athletes participating in a Special Olympics Motor Activity Training Program (MATP) at the Mary Campbell Center in Delaware I was reminded that each one of us has the ability to contribute and accomplish great things.
According to Special Olympics of Delaware, MATP is a noncompetitive program designed for athletes who are unable to participate in competitive sporting events because of their skills and functional abilities. MATP is able to prepare the individuals for activities designed for their ability level by offering up modified equipment and innovative ways in which participants can be mobile and engage in sports and recreation.
Each year the Mary Campbell Center hosts a MATP demonstration showcasing the accomplishments of some of its residents. This year’s event included baseball, soccer, bicycling, and swimming skills. Many of the participants at the event experience limited function of their legs, hands and arms. By utilizing switches and devices the participants are able to complete the activity.
The first event of the day was a soccer game where the eight athletes hit a switch with their head or hand to cause the soccer ball to slide down a bowling ramp toward the goal. The staff was creative in utilizing a swinging tennis racket that represented a goalie to attempt to block the shot. The athletes and the crowd were very excited when the ball got through the goal and landed at the back of the net. An additional soccer athlete utilized her walker to push the oversized ball down the soccer field to demonstrate her skills to navigate the ball and walker at the same time.
The second major event of the day was a baseball game where the participants used a specialized baseball stand and ball. The stand was created with PVC pipes and flexible rope and a 10-sided ball with numbers on it to determine a hit or out. In order for the bat to connect with the ball the participants pulled a rope to cause the bat to swing and hit the ball with authority. All the players had the opportunity to bat two times and each one I saw was able to get a hit and received applause and cheers from the crowd. When one batter hit a home run the crowd went wild with clapping and cheering.
Two more athletes displayed their skills for the audience. The first demonstrated a Freedom Concept bicycle with great excitement and enthusiasm. The other athlete provided a demonstration of the swimming skills he had worked on for the past several months.
At the end of the day all of the athletes participated in an award ceremony, where they received a MATP achievement medal. The beauty of this Special Olympics program is that it provides an equal chance for everyone to participate, perform, and be recognized for doing their best. Big smiles and expressions of accomplishment on a job well done were very evident when each one of the athletes received their medals. It was thrilling and a joy to see these smiles and to know each athlete worked hard to persevere and overcome all obstacles to accomplish these achievements.
I encourage everyone to check the Special Olympics of Delaware schedule to find a MATP event that’s close to them. Attend one and you’ll be inspired, seeing first-hand how all of us can accomplish great things.