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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, August 11, 2022
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Special Olympics Needs More Money for International Games

It’s just a few weeks before the territory’s Special Olympics team is scheduld to fly to Greece for the international games, and organizers are still looking for the rest of the money needed to make the trip.

At a recent event held on St. Thomas for the public to meet this year’s athletes, the most consistent message organizers wished to send was about the need for more community support. The territory’s delegation includes 14 athletes and six coaches and Special Olympics representatives, but right now there is not enough funding in the pot to pay for everyone’s ticket, they said.

"We need more funds, more money," said Elvin Forbes, the team’s bowling coach. "We don’t want to go over to Greece looking second hand. We want to really represent the Virgin Islands."

Forbes said the delegation is about "$30,000 in the hole," and is still looking for donations. A raffle was even held at the event to try and drum up more revenue, but many said they were not able to sell all of their tickets. While the government has chipped in for the cause, organizers said they also have been soliciting from private businesses, such as various Economic Development Commission tax beneficiaries, but have received no response. Others have blamed the ongoing recession for their inability to donate.

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"There are so many other people asking for donations, so it’s hard for people to realize what we’re doing," said Mary Jane Phillips, the organization’s public relations person. "But the athletes are all looking forward to it, so we’re trying as hard as we can to get them there."

The V.I. delegation will participate in tennis, weightlifting, track and field and bowling, and will leave for Greece on June 18. Along with raising funds, the time until then will also be devoted to practice – but even there, there are obstacles.

With the recent closing of the bowling alley on St. Thomas, Forbes said his athletes have had to set up plastic pins on local tennis courts, or have had to make the trip over to the Tortola to use the facilities there. Forbes said the team has traveled over once already and plans to make two more trips – costing between $300 to $400 – before the international games.

Bowling is not as easy as it looks and the athletes need to be in top shape to compete. But even with the limitations, Forbes said he still expects to "bring back some gold."

"We’re really proud of these athletes," he said. "They’ve worked hard and we expect a lot from them."

The delegation’s weightlifting coach, Robert Massey, also stressed that the athletes have been putting in long hours for the competition. Discipline is key because the "rules are strict," he said.

"This is not a low-key officiated event," he said. "There are going to be 80,000 people in the opening ceremony. That’s why you have to really train your athletes and tell them that this is serious, that they have to be serious. You’re in an international competition, so the rules apply to you, too."

Massey said at the heart of it, however, is helping the athletes to see what they can accomplish, and giving them a chance to see the world.

"Our thing is helping to build the athletes up and making them proud of themselves," he said. "And it’s a good experience for them to actually travel, and they can see that these sports will take them all over the world."

His only wish now, like all of the other organizers, is for the community to lend a bigger hand.

"If we didn’t think they could do it, then we wouldn’t take them," he said. "So, we wish more people would give some assistance in helping these kids to travel. We want them to give, and give from their hearts."

For more information, or to make a donation, call Janice Lee at (340) 772-2277.

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