The Spring Games sporting event hosted for the last 50 years by the Carroll County Special Olympics has been canceled. There will be no event in spring 2023 or thereafter.
The reasons? Cost and the amount of time that’s required to organize the games.
Laurie Brewer, area director for Carroll County Special Olympics, stressed that though that event will no longer be held, the organization is not going away.
“Just because Spring Games is not going to happen anymore has nothing to do with Carroll County Special Olympics,” she stated in an email. “We are going strong with 17 teams across 12 sports and over 300 athletes.”
Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Their mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition through a variety of Olympic-type activities.
“I know that a lot of people think that Spring Games is Special Olympics, but … Spring Games is just one small part of what Carroll County Special Olympics is,” Brewer said.
The Spring Games has been a big event in the county for decades.
The 50th opening ceremony for the Spring Games was held in April at Westminster High School and included more than 260 athletes from 27 county schools. In addition to student athletes, 35 adults from the adult sports team, the Tigers, participated.
“We hosted this event, did all the work, funded the entire event, and got all the volunteers, because we wanted the students in the school system to have a day where they could compete in track and field events, receive awards, and have a stage to be recognized for their achievements,” Brewer said. “As it evolved over the years, it became a very big project, one that we can no longer host, because of needing to be able to put the time and funds into Carroll County Special Olympics and the 17 teams that we have year-round.”
More than 300 volunteers and about 200 athletes typically participated in the Spring Games.
“Our community and our high school students step up every year and provide the volunteers that we need, and we are never hurting for volunteers,” Brewer said. “We are so grateful for all the community support that we get and could have never done this event without all of those people.
“We also provided lunch for everyone who participated or came to watch and most of the food was donated by parents, businesses and the community,” she said.
But the cost and the time spent on the event are the two reasons it’s ending.
“We are all volunteers and there was a group of people who worked on this event from December until April getting all the pieces in place, sometimes up to 20 hours a week,” she said. “Cost is another factor and this year it cost … around $6,000.”
An email sent Monday from Carroll County Public Schools to families alerted them about the end of the Spring Games.
“We know that the Spring Games is a very special event for our students, families and community. Carroll County Public Schools is working to explore potential alternatives for the event. This may include hosting a similar day independent of Carroll County Special Olympics. As we explore these alternatives, we will keep families informed and seek feedback from our community and stakeholder groups,” the email stated.
Nick Shockney, director of special education for Carroll County Public Schools, said he has already been approached with some alternative ideas.
The partnership the school system has enjoyed with the Special Olympics via the Spring Games has been very important, Shockney said, and he is thankful for it.
“The [event] brings the community together, and I know this is very important to the community,” he said.
Though the Spring Games are ending, the Carroll County Special Olympics program is not.
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“I can’t stress enough that even though we [are] not hosting Spring Games we will still be providing all the programs in Carroll County for our athletes with intellectual disabilities,” she said.
Carroll County Special Olympics has three sports seasons.
In the spring, they offer track, swimming, bocce, cheerleading, golf and kayaking. In the fall, it’s soccer, flag football, powerlifting, and bowling, and in the winter, there are three levels of basketball.
A young athletes program for children ages 2 through 8 is also active in the county, Brewer said.
“We also offer leadership opportunities through Special Olympics Maryland,” she said. “Carroll County Special Olympics offers our athletes a stage where they can compete in their sports and be recognized for their accomplishments.
“There is never any cost to the athlete or the family and we welcome them to participate in as many sports as they would like,” she said. “We are hoping that some of the school students that have participated in Spring Games will join one of our sports teams and be able to practice and compete with us. Our coaches are all amazing and put so much time into making sure our athletes get the best experience they can.”
For more information on the Carroll County Special Olympics go to its website at socrathletes.org or contact Brewer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-848-0102. Shockney can be contacted at email@example.com.