Special Olympics tourney kicks off Friday

ESCANABA – The 2013 Special Olympics Michigan District Basketball Tournament will take place this weekend at Escanaba High School.

The tournament, which is hosted by the Escanaba Noon Kiwanis Club, runs Friday and Saturday at the high school, with approximately 250 participating athletes, coaches, and chaperones from across the Upper Peninsula expected.

According to Dorothy Kollmann, one of the coordinators for the tournaments, the athletes will arrive at approximately 4 p.m. Friday afternoon with an opening ceremonies scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Escanaba High School Gymnasium.

Some competitions begin right after the opening ceremonies, running from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday. There will also be a dance for participants held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the commons area.

Competition continues Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m., said Kollmann, and will conclude with closing ceremonies around that time or a little earlier depending on when the games are finished.

The Escanaba Aktion Club will host socializing activities for participants Saturday afternoon. A concession stand will also be available throughout the day.

The event is free and open to the public.

Teams that do well here have the chance to move on to compete even further.

“This is like the district competition and the winners can go on downstate,” said Kollmann.

Many volunteers from the community and area groups are lending their help to this year’s tournament, she said.

“Come on and see us and be with us,” said Kollmann. “It’s an exciting time for the athletes and those who volunteer to be with them.”

This year marks the 36th year the tournament is hosted by Escanaba Noon Kiwanis.

According to the Special Olympics Michigan website, more than 1,800 athletes and 350 coaches and chaperones will participate in one of the six district basketball tournaments.

In addition to Escanaba, district tournaments are held at St. John, Northville, Saline, Grand Rapids, and Bay City.