The Arc of Butler is having a 60th anniversary five course gourmet dinner on Feb. 15

Special Olympics is a big part of one of the services Arc of Butler provides.

The Arc of Butler is having a 60th anniversary five course gourmet dinner on Feb. 15 to celebrate what they have done and are doing and to raise funds to continue their programs.

Special Olympics is an international organization changing lives by providing its athletes with opportunities to realize their potential, to develop a healthy lifestyle, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship.

Participation in Special Olympics proves to have a profound benefit by improving their physical fitness and motor skills and also providing greater self-confidence. Special Olympics allows participants to grow mentally and socially, gaining courage, friendship, new talents and abilities along the way.

Butler County is fortunate enough to have a Special Olympic team of their own, the Butler Blazers, through the The Arc of Butler. The Butler Blazers team consists of boys, girls, men and women with intellectual disabilities from all over Butler County.

Butler County falls within the South Central region of the Special Olympics Kansas. Currently, the Butler Blazers serve about 100 athletes with ages ranging from 8 years old to 68 years young. Participation in Special Olympics is open to those aged 8 and above. The activities are designed to serve all ability levels. They are like other athletes. They train and compete. They learn to win and to lose. They strive to do their best. They inspire.

In the spring, the whistle blows and the runners are on their way. As they cross the finish line, smiles abound from ear to ear, high fives are exchanged, and hugs are shared. It doesn’t matter whether they won or lost, for they are just happy to have competed and run their race.

In the winter, these athletes hit the basketball courts. They dribble the ball down court and either pass to a teammate who positions themselves for a 2-point jump shot, a 3 pointer or another player down low who takes it all the way to the basket. The bench erupts with players filled with pride and joy with each falling basket, not only for themselves, but for each other and even the opposing team. Special Olympic athletes have an amazing sportsman like conduct and their enthusiasm is contagious to spectators.

“Being a former athlete, I volunteered with the Special Olympics for the first time when I was in high school at a local swim meet in Wichita, and I will never forget the smiles that expressed the fun those kids and adults were having, nor the hugs I received that day,” said a volunteer. “In working with the Butler Blazers athletes, I can truly say I believe that each and every one of them have adopted the Special Olympic Athlete Oath, ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. I’ve truly been enriched in knowing these athletes!’”

This year, the Butler Blazers are hoping to expand the number of sports they participate in from six to eight of the 22 offered by the Kansas Special Olympics. Currently, they participate in basketball, cheerleading, track, aquatics, softball and bowling, and want to add powerlifting and soccer. Practices are held in two locations – El Dorado and Andover.

The Arc of Butler has volunteers of all ages and backgrounds and is always looking for new coaches/volunteers. People do not have to have coaching experience and anyone 10 years and older can become a Special Olympics volunteer. Becoming a Special Olympics Coach can create lifetime friendships and is rewarding. Please contact Sarah Vaughan at 316-213-5480 or if interested.

The Arc of Butler is a not-for-profit organization that helps enrich the lives of these special athletes through competitive sports. The organization relies on private donations, grants and fundraising to support the Butler Blazers to enrich the lives of these special athletes.

Anyone interested in becoming a Butler Blazer, becoming a volunteer/ coach, or who would like to contribute to the not-for-profit organization, can contact Vaughan.