Special Olympics West Virginia athletes Marsha Hall and Emil Hempelman, who were selected as members of Team USA for the  Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece, certainly made the most of their opportunities.

Marsha, who was a member of Team USA Bowling, earned a silver medal in doubles competition and bronze medals in both singles and team competition.  Emil earned a gold medal in shot put as a member of Team USA Track & Field.  He also earned a bronze medal as part of the 4 x 100 relay team and finished 6th in the 100 meter run.

They competed in Athens from June 25th – July 4th against more than 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 185 countries.  Congratulations to Marsha and Emil for showcasing their athletic abilities and making West Virginia proud of their accomplishments.

Special Olympics West Virginia athletes Marsha Hall and Emil Hempelman are members of Special Olympics Team USA, and they will be competing in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.  The World Summer Games will be the largest sporting event in the world this year and will bring together 7,500 Special Olympics athletes from 185 nations around the world.

Hall, who has been an athlete for 23 years, will be competing in bowling.  She notes that she is really excited to participating in the World Games.  “Competing in World Games is an honor and privilege, and I look forward to representing West Virginia and Team USA.  I also look forward to making new friends, and I always love every minute of Special Olympics.”

Hempelman will be part of the Team USA Track & Field team.  A Special Olympics West Virginia athlete for 20 years, he says he looks forward to seeing a new country.  “I have lots of fun traveling and meeting new people.  Competing in World Games will make me happy.”

Both Hall and Hempelman are from Marshall County, and have won countless medals in State Games throughout West Virginia.

The 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held June 25th – July 4th in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of modern sport.  Every two years, thousands of Special Olympics athletes worldwide come together to showcase their athletic skills and celebrate the spirit of Special Olympics.

 UniCare Health Plan of West Virginia, Inc. is teaming up with Special Olympics West Virginia this year as a sponsor for the upcoming Spring State Basketball Tournament and Summer Games that will be held in Morgantown and Charleston.

“The Special Olympics of West Virginia is a wonderful community organization that plays a very important role for countless families in the state and, it provides an opportunity for participating athletes to experience a weekend of camaraderie and sportsmanship,” said Mitch Collins, director of UniCare's Medicaid field operations.  “We know our support is vital to ensure the maximum number of athletes are able to attend the games; our goal is to encourage the involvement of as many Special Olympics athletes as possible through our sponsorship,” added Collins.

As Alex Lang of The Dominion Post wrote following the Morgantown Polar Plunge...

They came as Smurfs and Pirates.  They came as blind mice and leprechauns.  They came as the ensemble cast of “Three's Company.”  They came by the carload on February 26 to Star City Park and Marina to take part in the Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics West Virginia.

The event this year saw 235 “plungers” take a chilly dip, raising more than $64,000 and smashing last year's total.  According to Special Olympics West Virginia volunteer and event organizer Janet Scarcelli, the plunge was a record-breaking affair.

“We really exceeded all of our goals this year.  It was the effort of so many that made it work.  Every year has its own personality that comes from all of the wonderful people who come out and give their time and energy.  And of course, our plungers are great and nothing could be done without them.  It was fabulous.”

The number of plungers, dollars raised, and participants in the always entertaining costume contest all set new highs during the seventh year for the event.  The top individual earner was Mark Clemens, and KLM Properties raised the highest team total.  Major sponsors included Chesapeake Energy, Howard Hanna Realtors, First United Bank, West Virginia Junior College, Problem Gambler's Network, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, West Virginia University Hospitals, March Westin, Verizon, Morgantown Printing and Binding, WBOY, WDTV, West Virginia Radio Corp., and The Dominion Post.

The Beckley Polar Plunge followed the Morgantown event and was a spirited affair.  On a cool and windy March 5 day at the YMCA Sports Complex, 31 brave souls took the plunge and raised nearly $7,500 for Special Olympics West Virginia.  It was the second year for the Polar Plunge in Beckley, and word of the event is starting to spread.

“I think the folks who participated had a great time,” said John Corbett, CEO, Special Olympics West Virginia.  “There was a lot of excitement, laughter and just a fun all-around day.  Futhermore, I think we have built a nice foundation and I expect the event will certainly grow in the years ahead.”

Special Olympics West Virginia officials expressed appreciation to Walmart for the considerable help in planning and marketing the event, and for several managers and associates actually taking the plunge.

With the thermometer reading 36 degrees and a steady breeze making the wind chill temperature even colder, 129 brave and spirited individuals took the plunge in Charleston the evening of February 5.  Appalachian Power Park was buzzing with excitement as the participants and another 250 spectators gathered for a truly entertaining event which raised nearly $33,000 for Special Olympics West Virginia.

“We are grateful for the folks who endured the elements and boldly took the plunge, and we appreciate the support of the spectators who provided the needed encouragement to our participants,” said John Corbett, CEO, Special Olympics West Virginia.  “I believe everyone had a great time for a great cause.”

In addition to the individual participants, several area businesses and organizations fielded teams for the event.  Among those included Sheetz, United Bank, JeffersonWhitney, Teays Physical Therapy, C.H. Robinson, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso, Firebreather Fitness Club, Charleston Police Department, Kanawha County Sheriff's Office, Tyler Mountain Fire Department, Kang's Tae Kwan Do Academy, and West Virginia Power Baseball.  The Polar Plunge also had the support of state lawmakers, as Senator Mike Hall and Delegates Mitch Carmichael and Brian Savilla were among those to plunge.

The fun is not over as Polar Plunges are still scheduled for Morgantown and Beckley.  The Morgantown Polar Plunge, now in its seventh year, will be Saturday, February 26 at 2:00 p.m at the Star City Park and Marina.  The Beckley Polar Plunge will occur Saturday, March 5 at noon at the YMCA Sports/Soccer Complex.  Persons interested in taking the plunge may contact the Special Olympics West Virginia office for more information.

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Upcoming Events

Winter Sports Classic, January 25, Canaan Valley
Northern Regional Basketball Tournament, February 3, Buckhannon
Southern Regional Basketball Tournament, February 17, Beckley
State Basketball Tournament, March 16-17, Morgantown

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