Hello from Seattle! After a very long day of travel, Team Vermont arrived at the University of Washington where we will be staying in the dorms throughout the week of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.
The big activity today was the Opening Ceremony. Delegations were welcomed into Husky Stadium by thousands of cheering volunteers and spectators and treated two a star-studded event.
The University of Washington dorms are a short walking distance from most of the athletic facilities including the track and basketball arenas. Our journey to the Opening Ceremony began with a walk down University paths and streets lined with cheering volunteers. The reception was quite amazing and only intensified as we got closer to the venue. We were then staged in the Alaska Airlines basketball arena where we waited to be called into Husky Stadium. Here we were entertained but a Unified cheer leading demonstration, and appearances by NFL athletes and officials, WWE stars, and the Seattle Seahawks dance team!
This downtime also gave us a chance to have a snack and trade pins with other states. Pin trading is a brilliant icebreaker and staple of the Special Olympics USA Games. Every participant is armed with their state's pin and throughout the week, has the opportunity to introduce themselves to other states to trade pins. I know Graham and Zada are taking this very seriously and by dinner had both collected 35+ different state pins.
We also had a chance to visit with Trooper Callie Field from the Vermont State Police in Derby. She spent the past week running across the state of Washington as a Guardian of the Flame in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. The Torch Run is the largest global grassroots fundraising and awareness vehicle for Special Olympics and it was an honor to have Trooper Field with us.
ESPN is the official media partner of the Special Olympics USA Games and one of their reporters took some time to chat with Paul and Wayne. Diana Shilts is a Special Olympics athlete from Wisconsin and is making her debut at these Games as an ESPN analyst. Paul and Wayne had an opportunity to film a quick interview with her (I hope to have the clip to share with you tomorrow!).
When Vermont was finally called (tough position in the alphabet), we were escorted down a winding tunnel to Husky Stadium and seated at about the 40 yard line with about 4,000 other athletes and coaches. The sun came out just in time!
Please be sure to check out the Special Olympics Vermont Facebook and Instagram (@specialolympicsvermont) and Twitter (@SOVT) for more photos from today. It's hard to capture the energy and magic of the Special Olympics movement but we will do our best to keep our followers and fans back in Vermont up to date. Speaking of fans, we did run into the Watsons who are here cheering on Team Vermont!
Competition begins tomorrow for our athletics and basketball athletes. Aaron will run the 100m in the morning. The basketball team will take on Arizona in the morning and Minnesota in the evening.
I want to take a moment to thank the volunteers who are taking a week out of their very short Vermont summers to be here supporting Team Vermont. Special Olympics runs on volunteer power and none of this would be possible without the kindness and commitment of these selfless volunteers. Take a moment to thank Peter Booth, Anthony Spagnolo, Selina Hunter, and Chad Phalon, our amazing volunteer coaches. And Wanda Spatzer, our volunteer Head of Delegation who, even though she is retired, is working around the clock to make sure everyone is happy and healthy.
Thank you and stay tuned for more updates throughout the week!