(Submitted photo)(Submitted photo)

Athletes flock to Chatham-Kent for Special Olympics School Championships

After a year of planning and fundraising, the Special Olympics Ontario School Championship Games kick off in Chatham-Kent.

Over 1,000 people will be involved in the competition over the next two days in Chatham and Ridgetown.

"We're looking at 750 athletes, and then they'll have their educating assistants, teachers, EA's, coming with them," said Chatham-Kent Police Sergeant and organizer Jason Herder. "So we're looking at the 850 mark total with support staff, and then you start adding in our volunteers. We have a full crew of over 1,000 ready to make this happen in the next few days."

The athletes are set to take part in five events this week, with the competition officially starting Tuesday at 1 p.m.

"We've got five sports," said Herder. "We have bocce ball and basketball taking place at the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus. We have track and field occurring at Chatham-Kent Secondary School, CKSS. And then floorball and soccer will be taking place at St. Clair College, Thames Campus."

On Tuesday night, the public will have a chance to run with the flame of hope with the Final Leg from the Civic Centre in Chatham to the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.

"We have our Final Leg, that's going to be taking place at 6 p.m. today, and then Opening Ceremonies start at 7 o'clock. So a very jammed-packed day for everybody, but we are really excited for day one.

The public is invited to attend all of the competitions and events, and it's free to attend.

"There was no cost for any of our athletes to get here," said Herder. "That was part of all the fundraising we did over the last year, is to ensure that everyone coming down, that is came at no cost to them. We're really happy with everything that came together, and now we get to watch the hard work that we did over the last year."

For the full schedule of events, visit https://schoolchamps.ca/.

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