CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Special Olympics Maine’s Winter Games opened Monday with hundreds of athletes decked out in red and white scarves, handmade by volunteers around the country.

“Everyone gets one, including our bus drivers and volunteers,” said Lisa Bird, director of public relations.

She held up one donated by Shirley Deremer of Port Orange, Fla., who sent the scarf with a note that read, “You’re a winner.”

The athletes and volunteers don’t know these knitters and crocheters, Bird said, but many of them have past ties to Special Olympics events and want to stay in touch.

The 450 athletes make up 64 teams competing in Alpine and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and speed-skating Monday and Tuesday at Sugarloaf USA. An army of coaches and volunteers assist with all phases of the three-day Winter Games.

Wendy Gilbert of Bradley has been volunteering for 23 years and is on the Special Olympics management committee for Penobscot County. She and Scott Gregory of Fryeburg helped organize the 175 snowshoers into the four competitive levels in the field across from The Roost restaurant.

“I’ve been in part of Special Olympics for over 30 years as a volunteer,” Gregory said.

Between the morning and afternoon competitions Monday, the 64 teams marched in a parade that included members of the Maine Warden Service dressed in their bright red jackets.

A banquet, torchlight parade and dance topped off the first day of the games.

On Tuesday, athletes in Alpine and Nordic skiing and snowshoeing will compete in the finals. Closing ceremonies are set for noon when award and medals will be presented.

It will cap off the 47th annual Winter Games, which opened Sunday with a community supper for about 800 people at the Base Lodge. Earlier, the Roderick-Crosby American Legion Post 28 in Farmington served lunch for travelers headed to the games.

Special Olympics Maine’s mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, according to its website. It serves over 3,800 athletes and offers events at the local, state, national and international levels.


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