Faribault County Giants wrap up their amazing season
The Faribault County Giants Special Olympics team just celebrated the end of their first season with a banquet on Sunday, May 19. And, they had a lot to celebrate.
“We had a very good year,” says Sheryl Aukes, who is the organizer and director of the group. “Our first year really exceeded all of our expectations.”
Aukes says Blue Earth attorney Daniel Lundquist approached her with the idea of starting a local Special Olympics team over a year ago. At the time, the people interested in participating in this program were going to Fairmont and were a part of the Martin County team.
She was very interested in starting a team, and has put a lot of effort into making it happen.
“We started with bowling,” Aukes says. “And we had 13 athletes, three coaches and three unified partners (helpers) participating.”
The team members practiced bowling at Lucky Lanes in Winnebago. Aukes had raised enough funds to have T-shirts for the members and coaches and to have the bowling costs paid for.
“Unfortunately there was a snowstorm at the time of the state tournament in Mankato and only three of our athletes could get there,” Aukes explains. “But those three got first or second in their brackets.”
The team organizers decided to have their own “mini-tournament” and gave out medals to all of their athletes at their bowling tournament at Lucky Lanes.
“You should have seen all of their smiling faces,” she says. “It is just great to see how they all love it.”
In February the sport was basketball, and there were 14 athletes participating. The competition involves 3 on 3 and 5 on 5 teams competing against each other, as well as individual skills competition, which includes shooting, dribbling and more.
“Before basketball is over, in March, we are already starting track and field,” Aukes says. “We had 19 athletes in track and field.”
The events include things like walking and running races and wheelchair races, ball and shot put throwing, relay races and a lot more.
The basketball tournament was on April 28 and the track and field meet was on May 4. The Faribault County Giants did very well at both.
“It is not all about the winning,” Lundquist says. “It is the participation, the comradery, the being together as a team. It is amazing to watch how everyone reacts to this.”
Special Olympics is open to anyone with special needs from age eight up to senior citizen. Aukes says they had two senior citizens on their team this year.
“The older athletes show the younger ones how to do things,” she says. “It really is something to see and be a part of. We certainly invite everyone to come and see for themselves. Or be a part of it as a coach, athlete or helper.”
This summer the sport is softball, but the Giants are not fielding a team. That is mainly due to not being able to get enough players or coaches for it. Instead, the team is going to focus on getting out in the community and holding fundraisers.
“We will have a booth at the county fair and we will be in many of the town parades. We will also be fundraising with a bake sale, and other things.” Aukes says. “We want to get more visible out in the community.”
For any organization like this to succeed, they are looking for financial support and for people willing to be coaches or helpers.
“I think our team will keep growing,” Aukes says. “We had such a great first year, and we are all already looking foward to next year.”
For more information on the Giants, check out their Facebook page or contact Aukes for more details on the team and how you can be involved.