More than 30 athletes from Armstrong and Indiana counties competed recently in the annual bocce tournament hosted by Special Olympics Pennsylvania at the White Township Recreation Complex.
Because the number of bocce athletes had doubled since last year, the event was extended and each athlete played in a team of two, competing in one game on a soil court and one game on a grass court.
Coaches Anne Simmons (Indiana County) and Holly Shoaf (Armstrong County) prepared athletes for the event by practicing for more than eight weeks in various locations on both types of courts.
Many athletes said the grass courts were more of a challenge due to added resistance but were able to adjust to the elements.
The goal of bocce is to get your team’s balls closest to the pallino, a smaller ball thrown at the beginning of the game.
Volunteers from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Indiana High School assisted athletes through each game.
Special Olympics athlete and global messenger Nicole Ramer opened the tournament. Ramer speaks at various events on behalf of Special Olympics and serves on the athlete congress, a group of Special Olympic athletes from across Pennsylvania who share athletes’ opinions with Special Olympics officials.
After the athletes were done playing bocce, they gathered for a picnic-style lunch served by a women’s group from IUP.
During lunch, attendees learned about and recognized Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics and Unified Sports. The event concluded with the awards ceremony in which all athletes received a medal.