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Lack of snow doesn’t stop winter games

PRINCETON — Snow or no snow, the 2013 District Winter Games for the Illinois Special Olympics will go on as scheduled this weekend in Princeton.

On Wednesday, Cheryl DePaepe, director for Area 16 of Illinois Special Olympics, said the opening ceremony for the District Winter Games is set for 9:45 a.m. Saturday at the Bureau County Fairgrounds, 811 W. Peru St. in Princeton. The final event of the day, a 4-by-100 relay, will begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Saturday’s games will focus on snowshoe events, DePaepe said. Because of the current lack of snow on the ground, the cross country events will need to be cancelled. DePaepe is contacting the state organization for final confirmation.

At this time, 90 athletes from 15 agencies will compete in Saturday’s District Winter Games, DePaepe said. The youngest athletes are 6 and 7 years old with other athletes reaching into adulthood. Athletes are coming to Princeton from throughout the north, central and western parts of the state, including from the cities of Galena, Monmouth, Rockford, Dixon and Springfield. Locally, six athletes from Gateway Services and two from Princeton High School will participate in Saturday’s games, she said.

The Special Olympics athletes are generally expected to have a four- to six-week training period in their event prior to the district games, DePaepe said. Many of the athletes are returning in their sport. Medals are given for the first three places with everyone else receiving participation ribbons. Gold medal winners will compete in the state games Jan. 29-31 in Galena.

Though each athlete will receive at least a participation ribbon; the rewards go far beyond that ribbon, DePaepe said.

“The rewards are multiple,” DePaepe said. “The athletes are getting an opportunity to show what they can do in a competition and sports. For me, having been around for many years, I’ve had the opportunity to see the growth of sportsmanship in our athletes, a growth in the understanding of the rules of the game, and also a growth in the performances of the athletes.”

Saturday’s event is open and free to the public, DePaepe said. The Bureau County Fairgrounds has been the site for the District Winter Games for about the last five years, with more than 50 volunteers scheduled to be on hand to help with this year’s games, she said.

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