Recent news about rich parents gaming the system to get their offspring into the “right” colleges has spawned conversations about the state of things in America.
I, of course, have my two cents to add to the discussion, especially where sports are concerned.
Sports were one of the avenues to acceptance that the offenders employed to get their over-privileged darlings into elite schools- doctoring photos , generating fictitious resumes and bribing coaches. As if collegiate sports were not tainted enough already.
Which led me to ponder, is there any purity left in sports at all?
Money and politics run college sports- that we know. And even at the secondary level, for every high school athlete who shows even a modicum of promise, there is a parent- advocate pushing to position their child for a college scholarship.
And, sadly, even youngsters can’t play a stress free game without “encouragement” from the stands. At my home town Little League field, years ago officials moved the bleachers from behind home plate out to center field where shouted criticisms from parents were less disruptive.
So, is there any place where a game can be played simply for the joy of it?
I suggest that there is.
Special Olympics creates opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities. There are 12,000 in Connecticut alone competing year round in 28 different sports. They train to win, of course, but their focus is to do the best they can and enjoy the process. And part of Special Olympics is Unified Sports which partners Special Olympians with elementary, middle and high school students to train and play together in friendly competition.
And here’s another area where sports are played for the best of reasons. When and wherever everyday folks gather to play for someone else’s benefit. To me that is sport at its most noble, and the pages of sportingAcause.com are full of them.
They abandoned all of their comfort and a bit of their dignity last Saturday when they jumped into cold water for a great cause. They were the intrepid souls who raised money for Special Olympics Connecticut at the Winsted Penguin Plunge at Highland Lake.
The event is billed as the largest grass roots fundraiser in the state for Special Olympics CT, and they proved it Saturday. The group raised nearly $80,000 for the charity which provides year round training and competitions for 12,000 Connecticut athletes with intellectual disabilities as well as Unified Sports which partners SO athletes with teammates without intellectual disabilities.
Now the real story at the Winsted Penguin Plunge was the number of young people involved. Groups from Torrington and Pomperaug High Schools as well as the elementary schools of Region 7, and the Boy Scouts from Troop 23 in Torrington plunged in full uniform.
All in all, kids made up over 25% of the total participants at the Plunge. And that’s not counting the hundreds, if not thousands of high schoolers who serve as partners in the Unified Sports program
I’ve written before about the significant role that our young people play in local charities , and I’ll surely be reporting about it again. Our young people don’t get enough credit for all they do.
Til next time
Bob Frink passed way in the middle of February. I had only met him once, and from that moment wished that I had known him longer. I met him at the Canaan Country Club last August where he was hosting the 3rd Annual Ice Bucket Open Golf Tournament to raise money for the ALS Association, Connecticut Chapter which provides equipment, transportation, and general support to ALS patients and their families.
Bob sat in a motorized wheelchair. He could no longer speak, but he could smile, and I think smiling is about the bravest thing you can do when you have ALS.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or, more commonly, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which means it robs the sufferer of muscular control starting with mobility and manual dexterity and eventually speech and the ability to breath. There is no cure, and it is always fatal. It stole those things from Bob, but it couldn’t rob his spirit, or the spirit of his wife Jeanine and their family. Much is asked of a family when a member has ALS.
Bob had served as greenskeeper at CCC for 27 years, so a golf tournament at the Club was a natural for a fundraiser. Well known and well loved, Bob’s friends organized the Open to raise money to help him out, but Bob decided the proceeds would go to ALS Association CT, the organization that has helped him and his family.
The tournament has raised over $70,000 for ALS research over its three year run. This year the Ice Bucket Open will be held August 10th in Bob’s honor.