The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and their community.
A little more than ten years ago, Michael and Amy Clark endeavored to start a community-based Special Olympics program in the City of Suffolk. At that time Suffolk only offered Special Olympics to a few students enrolled at Lakeland High School. The Suffolk community-based program started with a swim program at the Suffolk YMCA as a part of Special Olympics Area 21, which also included Franklin and the counties of Isle of Wight, Southampton, and Surry. The Clarks along with other volunteers worked to expand the community-based program over the next nine or so years to provide athletes an opportunity to participate in swimming, bowling, power lifting, golf, volleyball, soccer, tennis, bocce, cornhole, softball, basketball, track, and field.
After a great deal of effort and numerous growing pains, the Suffolk Special Olympics-community-based program has successfully become its own area. We are now recognized as Special Olympics Area 29 offering a community-based and school-based program in the City of Suffolk. We have expanded our school-based program in the Suffolk Public Schools to now include Nansemond River High School and are working to expand into more schools. We are working to expand our community-based program with the athletes that are graduating from the school system. We are very excited to be a part of this effort and are continuing to work with the school system in establishing adaptive physical education classes within more schools.
Area 29 serves the City of Suffolk and Zuni Presbyterian Training Center and has current outreach to adult athletes in Franklin and the eastern part of Isle of Wight County. Members of our golf team have been invited to national competitions in Nebraska, Florida, and most recently in Arizona. Members of our power lifting team have been invited to AAU Nationals in Disney World and Las Vegas. Most sports participate in either Summer Games at the University of Richmond in June or in Fall Championships in Virginia Beach in early November, depending on whether the sport is considered a winter/spring or summer/fall sporting activity.
Currently led by Frank Zielinski, the Area 29 Council and its volunteers are always looking for ways to reach out to more athletes, to gain more coaches and additional volunteers, to raise funds to support our athletic programs, and to create more activities and programs for the benefit of our Special Olympians.