Special Olympians score at Grand Forks tourney
In 2006, David Dahlgren was named the North Dakota Male Athlete of the Year for Special Olympics.
At age 25, it's apparent he still has skills, scoring two goals as the Grand Forks Wolfpack won their first two games Saturday at the Special Olympics State Soccer Tournament at Bringewatt Park in Grand Forks.
Combined with the bocce ball tournament, there were approximately 350 Special Olympians at Bringewatt. The fall competitions, held in Grand Forks for the 14th consecutive year, end today. Before the 1997 flood, Grand Forks was home to the bigger summer games, which are now held in Fargo.
Dahlgren, an all-around athlete, competes virtually year-round. Asked about his favorite sport, Dahlgren said, "all of them," adding that it is whatever sport is in season.
However, Dahlgren's role in Special Olympics is about more than his athletic skills. He is also on the local Special Olympics management organizing committee. And, he gives back by working in the summer for the Park District's "SMILE" program," which is for special needs children.
Stacy Olson, a Wolfpack teammate, celebrated his 41st birthday a day later by scoring a goal, which prompted a wide smile and a series of high-fives, a popular gesture.
"Stacy always has a smile and a laugh," said Meredith Baumann, area director for Grand Forks Special Olympics. "But, when the competition gets serious, you can hear him.
"He really enjoys soccer because sometimes he can't make all the games because of his job (at Wendy's). Stacy likes to be around people and not be alone."
The Wolfpack is a "unified" team, meaning that it's comprised of Special Olympian athletes and non-Special Olympians known as "partners." Three athletes and two partners are on the field together.
"The partners' job is to assist the athletes, not to take over the game," Wolfpack Coach Dan O'Connor said. "Typically, the partners set up the athletes to score the goals."
There are teamwork lessons outside the playing field, too, Baumann said. "This helps everyone learn how to interact and be equal citizens in all things," she said.
Competition resumes at 9:30 a.m. today.
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