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A celebration of inclusivity at Special Olympics softball tournament

Appeal-Democrat - 8/17/2018

Aug. 17--Before the Special Olympics existed, special needs children and adults and their parents were often told how sorry people felt for them. Not so much, anymore. This year marks five decades of inclusivity.

At least 300 athletes and coaches will participate Saturday in the Northeast Regional Softball Tournament at Yuba City's Blackburn Talley Sports Complex. The Special Olympics tournament runs from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Special Olympics area director T.J. Fetters has been working with the program for 43 years -- he became a liaison for the Special Olympics while in the military, before retiring as a master sergeant.

He said he knew nothing about the program when he began.

"I didn't have any children that were handicapped or had special needs," Fetters said.

The Special Olympics as a whole aims to "provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities", according to their website.

The Northern Calif/Nev. program runs from January through the middle of October. Basketball starts the season out, followed by bocce ball, track and field and swimming in the spring. Softball starts in the middle of June, followed by the Northern California Summer Games at the end of the month. They host two softball tournaments in July and August. The year ends with soccer, which starts the week after softball concludes, and runs until Oct. 14 in Santa Rosa.

Fetters said the Yuba-Sutter community has been supportive of the program throughout the years.

"I cannot list all of the generous clubs, civic organizations, people and everyone else," he said. "All we can ask is for all of them to keep doing what they are doing."

Fetters said this may be the first year that David Soto, president of the Northern California/Nevada Special Olympics, will be in attendance.

There will be 18 teams playing and eight athletes participating in softball skills awards programs.

Each team will play two games and be awarded medals -- gold, silver or bronze -- within their divisions.

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(c)2018 the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.)

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