Local Special Olympics team receives award
The Duluth All-Stars team has been named the 2008 Special Olympics Minnesota's outstanding delegation. Roberta Wachlin is the Duluth Special Olympics coordinator and has been with the delegation for just over 14 years. "It's the funnest job I've ...
The Duluth All-Stars team has been named the 2008 Special Olympics Minnesota's outstanding delegation.
Roberta Wachlin is the Duluth Special Olympics coordinator and has been with the delegation for just over 14 years.
"It's the funnest job I've never been paid for," Wachlin said of coaching.
She says the award comes as a surprise.
"We had no idea we were nominated until we got the call," Wachlin said. "It's truly an honor. Out of so many delegations and years of being involved -- we're truly honored."
Though Wachlin was surprised when she got that call, the Duluth All-Stars have been recognized for years for the dynamics of their team, both athletically and in terms of sportsmanship.
"They bring a lot of humanity to sports," Wachlin said. "They know what their level is, what they're capable of."
Despite the successes the All-Stars have experienced over the years, there is no designated facility for the team's current 262 members to practice and compete at in Duluth. Acquiring such a facility is among the dreams Wachlin has for the program.
Currently Duluth Special Olympics utilizes the Washington Center, East High School track, Wheeler Field and the Incline Station, among others, to carry out its practices and competitions.
Using so many facilities is necessary because there are quite a few sports the athletes compete in, including floor hockey, aquatics, track and field, volleyball and alpine skiing.
"There is no off-season," Wachlin said.
In fact, the Duluth All-Stars will compete in the first-ever annual trifecta March 4. The event will include competitions in swimming, power-lifting and basketball.
Another important aspect of the Duluth Special Olympics program is its volunteers. Without them, Wachlin believes the program would be impossible to run.
"I go back to everything we've ever done," she said, "And we've been really blessed to have the support we do."
Volunteers include individuals, family members of athletes and fraternities and sororities from the University of Minnesota Duluth. The Duluth, Proctor and Superior police also helped out, putting on "Cops and Lobsters," a fund-raiser for the Special Olympics that was held at Red Lobster. The police forces also help out by participating in the torch run and Polar Bear Plunge each year.
Volunteer of the year
Kevin Sternal is being honored as the Special Olympics Minnesota volunteer of the year.
"I was kind of shocked because I wasn't expecting it," Sternal said of finding out he would receive the award. "It was at a global messenger meeting and it was written on a cake. It's certainly an honor."
Sternal was officially given the award at a banquet in December. Special Olympics Minnesota athlete and Global Messenger Dave Lane presented the award. Sternal mentors and coaches Lane, so the gesture held special significance.
"It was neat having Dave present the award," Sternal said.
When asked what it is that inspires him to work with the athletes, Sternal said, "The attitude that the athletes have, whether it's getting a participant ribbon or a gold medal."
Polar Bear Plunge Saturday
The 10th annual Duluth Polar Bear Plunge will take place this weekend. Participants will jump into Lake Superior at a designated site near Canal Park.
The Coast Guard and other emergency response officials will be standing by, just to be safe.
"The officers in Duluth have really gotten it down to a science," Wachlin said of the police volunteers.
In 2008, 450 plungers raised a total of $75,500 to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota.
The plunge requires a minimum $75 worth of pledges. Registration begins 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30 at Grandma's Sports Garden in Canal Park and also takes place from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31.
The plunge is scheduled for 3 p.m., and a shuttle bus will carry participants from the building to the site.