Local Program Spotlight: Clackamas County
It is no secret that Special Olympics Oregon was facing a lot of uncertainty last year; this led to competitions being cancelled and training being limited to a no-cost policy. However, many of the local programs from around the state remained hard at work, continuing to find their own paths to success.
Joanne Trask, the Clackamas County local program coordinator (LPC), is a great example of this phenomenon. Joined by a loyal team of over ten other volunteers who work together to manage the sports and programming for Clackamas, Trask has been overwhelmed by the way her community has come together to make sure that the Clackamas County athletes have nothing short of an amazing experience this year.
“Everyone involved with Special Olympics is part of a very “can-do” population of people,” said Trask. “The athletes, coaches, and both the local and state management teams are working their hardest to keep things running smoothly and improve communication and transparency on all levels.”
Trask and her management team sprang into action immediately after hearing the news that the State Games would be canceled. They reached out to local businesses and potential donors and dedicated a lot of their early efforts to fundraising. Trask recalled the efforts of several remarkable individuals who hold some sort of leadership role within Special Olympics Oregon - Clackamas County:
- Dena Lund, the head bowling coach of 85 athletes in Milwaukie, rallied people together and fundraised enough to have a full bowling season in the Fall.
- Anne Beringer communicated with the Wilsonville Lanes, who agreed to donate their facility and also offered to help with ongoing fundraising efforts.
- The North Clackamas Parks and Recreation Department provided their soccer fields and porta potties to the Clackamas County team for free.
- The Lake Oswego Tennis Center continued to provide the Clackamas tennis players a facility to practice in free of charge.
- Matt Chrisman from the Lake Oswego Columbia Bank teamed up with a private donor to underwrite the total cost of swimming in TIgard. The Molala Aquatics Center and Canby Swim Team also joined in this effort.
Because of this true community-wide effort, Trask and her management team have hosted competitions in swimming, bowling, and soccer. The only sports they were not able to keep running this year were volleyball and snow sports.
“The engagement of everyone is really heartwarming and wonderful. Seeing the athletes still on task and training their skills for competitions is an amazing feeling,” explained Trask.
Without any hesitation, Trask and her management team are surging forward with more programming in the Spring. Within the next few months, Trask is looking forward to hosting seasons for tennis, basketball, powerlifting, and the walking club:
- Gerri Allen, the tennis coach for Special Olympics Oregon - Clackamas County has already agreed to host competitions in the Spring.
- Trask has been hard at work to ensure basketball will be possible; she hosted three fundraisers in the Fall and has been in conversation with several venues around the county.
- Kabuki Strength offered the use of their facility for free so that the Clackamas powerlifters would have a place to practice and compete.
- The walking club, coached by Amy and Chuck Boyle, started a year ago as a cost-effective alternative to snow sports. This will continue as planned this Winter and is great for the athletes in terms of exercise and social opportunities.
Still in the works for Trask and her team is planning for regional competitions in the Spring and beyond. The hope is that these larger-scale events will give the Clackamas athletes an opportunity to engage with their friends from nearby counties and provide a greater sense of the competitive atmosphere that many of the athletes love about Special Olympics.
“Seeing Clackamas County residents and businesses come together on such short notice has been a true revelation about the power of compassion and community,” said Trask. “People have substituted their disappointment with positivity and it is really inspiring and motivating to watch.”
This kind of positive mindset will continue to lead Special Olympics Oregon - Clackamas County through successful sports seasons in 2019. And for all of Special Olympics Oregon, it will be essential to focus on the reason each and every person chose to be involved in this incredible organization:
“Everything related to Special Olympics is pure fun, and that won’t change no matter what happens,” said Trask. “It’s a place where everyone, regardless of ability, can pursue their passion. And it will continue to be possible because the people who make up the Special Olympics community won’t have it any other way.”