Winter had finally arrived. The temperature was 19 degrees and the wind was whipping at gusts of 35 MPH, making the cold weather downright bone-chilling.
Normally, winter sports athletes welcome the cold. But not when it’s this cold. And especially not when they are standing, not skiing.
That was the scene Sunday evening at Central Park in Johnstown, Pa., as over 50 athletes and coaches from Special Olympics Delaware’s winter sports teams huddled together to stay warm during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games.
“It was downright cold,” said Mark Wise, Special Olympics Delaware’s head of delegation. “If not for the excitement of the event, I’m not sure we could have stayed the entire time.”
The athletes and coaches, and even the parents in the stands watching, had one warm advantage – they were bundled in scarves. And not just Delaware’s contingent, but every single team from Pennsylvania, too.
The matching red and blue scarves are a result of the Special Olympics USA Scarf Project. According to the website, the handmade scarves represent a symbol of unity, support, compassion and empowerment, as the Special Olympics athletes, coaches, families, volunteers and supporters wear them with pride in knowing they have become part of the Special Olympics family.
“It really is a neat project,” said Ann Grunert, executive director of SODE. “It’s a very cool, no pun intended, way for people of all background and abilities with the talent to knit and crochet to provide our athletes with a necessary wearable to keep them warm and safe as they train and compete.”
The scarves were knit and collected over a period of several months, with over 200 being donated to Special Olympics Delaware. There were enough to go around to every athlete, parent and coach as they boarded the bus and loaded into their cars Sunday morning to head to Johnston, Pa., site of the Winter Games.
“It was impressive to see everyone in matching scarves,” said Rose Dagg, who headed up Delaware’s effort with the project. “Those of us who love to knit and crochet and took part in it can know we helped make a difference as the athletes and coaches head up to the cold mountain to compete.”
Note: Over 50 remaining scarves were donated to Project HUG, an initiative of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) and the Organization of Adult Alumni and Students in Service (OAASIS). The project focuses on providing warmth, comfort, smiles, and hugs for children and young adults in Delaware who are homeless or in foster care. Special Olympics Delaware’s Newark office was designated a drop-off location for the project, which collected, among other things, jackets, scarves, pajamas and other items to help keep children warm.