The Westerville Special Olympics is looking to help local families understand what it's like to be a Special Olympics athlete.

The Westerville Special Olympics is looking to help local families understand what it's like to be a Special Olympics athlete.

The group will host its first Olympic Experience from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Westerville Sports Complex, 325 N. Cleveland Ave.

Children will be able to participate in sports "try-its," playing Special Olympic sports side by side with Special Olympic athletes; in sports clinics run by teams from Westerville's three high schools; and in competitions, including a slam-dunk contest, a punt, pass and kick competition and a pitch, catch and hit competition.

"This is an event for all of the kids in the community to come out and compete with the Westerville Special Olympic athletes in a fun sporting event to see what sports are all about and see how much fun we are," said Westerville Special Olympics chairwoman Jessica Hollins.

The Olympic Experience also has several other goals, including raising funds for the Special Olympics, showing families with special-needs children what Westerville Special Olympics has to offer and raising awareness about the group in the community, Hollins said.

"We just had heard so many times, 'Oh, my goodness, I didn't know Westerville had a Special Olympics," Hollins said. "We have all the season sports going on throughout the whole year that the kids can participate in."

In fact, the Westerville Special Olympics serves 100 children in nine sports that run throughout the year, she said. The children are only charged fees when absolutely necessary.

"Almost all of the cost, we incur, so that's why we have to do a little fundraising," Hollins said. "We want to be able to include everybody."

To help with fundraising, the Olympic Experience will cost $10 per child or $25 per family.

With that fee, participants are able to try 15 different sports and participate in the competitions and clinics.

Each participant will be given a gold medal upon registration, and for each sport that is tried, participants will receive a pin to be placed on the medal.

The registration fee also includes a hot dog bar lunch, provided by the Westerville Sunrise Rotary, and an ice cream social catered by Rita's at the closing ceremony. Children who participate will receive backpacks filled with free items.

In honor of the Olympic Experience, there will be a torch-lighting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26 in Uptown during the monthly Fourth Friday celebration. At 7 p.m., there will be torch runs at each of the three high schools' home football games.

Hollins said the entire community has come out to support the Olympic Experience, including the Westerville Department of Parks and Recreation, Westerville City Schools and local businesses and organizations.

With all of that support, Westerville Special Olympics is looking to continue the Olympic Experience next year, and OhioHealth already has signed on to once again serve as the platinum sponsor, Hollins said.

"It's really seeing how much the community is supporting each other and supporting all the different areas and bridging those gaps and bringing everyone together in a fun sporting event," she said. "That's pretty exciting. It's the first one, and the city and the (parks and recreation department) and the school district, they want to see it as a yearly event. We're getting such a good response from it from all areas."

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