By John Anderson

Auburn has become a regular venue for the Massachusetts Special Olympics Winter Games. Whether playing basketball at Auburn High School or bowling at AMF Auburn Lanes, hundreds of special athletes come to town to participate and compete each March. This past weekend was no exception.

Eleven teams and over 120 participated in basketball over the two days while 88 teams and 270 athletes bowled. Parking lots were packed, volunteers helped in any way they could, and the players arrived with smiles and determination.

Matt Ruxton, Special Olympics Massachusetts Vice-President of Sports, said all teams assigned to Auburn are “traditional” which means that every member has a diagnosed intellectual disability. There are also unified teams that may mix disabled players with mentors to learn the game or align disabled players with non-disabled players at a similar skill level.

Towards the end of every season, Special Olympics holds a statewide tournament in selected sports from equestrian events to cycling to flag football. The Winter Games featured alpine skiing, basketball, bowling, and floor hockey. This year 1,800 athletes competed.