Soccer skills in Sussex: Special Olympians get in their kicks

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Special Olympian Micah Joel Smith of Seaford Central Elementary holds the Flame of Hope with Delaware State Police Master Cpl. Chad Harmon during opening ceremonies at the Sussex County Soccer Skills Competition. At left is state trooper Kimberly Haley. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).

GEORGETOWN – One of Special Olympics Delaware’s most popular sports took center-stage last Thursday – with Sussex Tech High School the welcoming host.

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Ann Marie Perrotta of the Howard T. Ennis Eagles flashes a joyful smile as she maneuvers the ball past pylons in a soccer skills station. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).

More than 200 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners from 11 Sussex County schools got in their kicks May 7 at the Soccer Skills Competition.

Capping plenty of practice, athletes participated individually in skills competitions or on Unified teams with Unified Partners (peers without a disability) in five on five tournaments.

Unified Tournament play was a new addition this year to SOD’s soccer event.

“Our athletes enjoy striving to improve their skills in a variety of sports and soccer is no different,” said Jon Buzby, spokesperson for Special Olympics Delaware. “It’s a sport that they not only can compete in through Special Olympics, but because of its popularity in communities around the state, it’s one they are often asked to play with their friends just for fun. Having success in Special Olympics gives them the confidence to do so. And we are very excited to be offering team competition this season.”

Among the schools with participating athletes: the “loud and proud” Ennis Eagles from Howard T. Ennis School, Lord Baltimore Elementary, the (John) Clayton Elementary Indians, Seaford Central Elementary, Woodbridge Middle School and Wood High School. Several Milford schools also participated.

Members of Sussex Tech’s Project Unify Club assisted in the event, and formed a human tunnel in welcoming the Special Olympics athletes as they arrived.

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Sussex Tech senior Jessica Mills, front left, and sophomore Fantasy Hopkins, right, are among the school PROJECT UNIFY members greeting Special Olympics athletes at last Thursday’s Sussex County Soccer Competition (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).

“It takes many resources to develop a successful competition,” said Mr. Buzby. “We would like to thank our event host – the administration and staff of Sussex Tech High School – for their generous hospitality.”

Project UNIFY aims to activate youth around the country to develop school communities where all young individuals are agents of positive change — establishing respect, fostering dignity and promoting advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities through involvement with the programs and initiatives of Special Olympics.

Statewide this year, more than 1,500 athletes will be competing in four soccer events during the month of May.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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