This is a milestone year for Special Olympics of Maine. The organization is celebrating it's 50th anniversary. The first International Special Olympics Games were in 1968 and shortly after that Maine Special Olympics was born.
Special Olympics in the State of Maine started out small, but it didn't take long for it to grow into what it is today. Mickey Boutilier was the first Executive Director in the State holding that title for over 30 years. Even in retirement he continued to share the Special Olympics message. In an interview in 2012 he talked about attitudes have changed over the years.
(Mickey Boutilier):" More acceptance education. It used to be not in my neighborhood. The athletes have proven I have a right to be here. I have a right to be on that field just like everybody else."
Special Olympics of Maine offers over 20 sports to thousands of Special Olympians throughout the State. The organization continues to evolve
(Ian Frank):" Now getting into community integration. That whole movement has really mimicked itself in Special Olympics. Going from traditional Special Olympics events to Unified and including everyone."
Special Olympics in Aroostook County has been around for over 4 decades.
(Steve Richard):"We think it has been about 42 years. Alice Malloch a teacher here at the Opportunity Training Center and I got involved with Special Olympics and we started off on the old track behind Presque Isle High School."
Richard says the County's Area Management team has worked on bringing several sports to the Athletes.
Richard:" We've gone from track and field to we do swimming aquatics, we have a really good basketball program and a great soccer program."
Boutilier was a familiar face at the County games. He would attend and had a huge smile on his face. He always said that if you attend one Special Olympics event you will be back. He stressed that he and other organizers weren't the reason for the success of the program.
Boutilier.:" The athletes do it they sell the program and they are so appreciative."
The Spring games are the largest event with over 300 Olympians competing each year in Presque Isle.
Richard:" I love to watch the parents I love to watch the spectators who are looking at the person's ability and cheering on that person's ability no matter what it is."