by Sue Ann Rybak
Raymond Anderson, 38, of East Falls, has always been athletic. Anderson, who has an intellectual disability, began running track and cross country in high school. Sports and competition, he said, have helped him keep focus.
On Saturday, April 27 he will be one of 250 athletes in the Philadelphia area competing in the 2013 Special Olympics Spring Games which will be held from 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at Penn Charter School, 3000 W. School House Lane.
“Competing in the Special Olympics has really helped me to be more disciplined,” Anderson said. “It keeps me busy and gives me something fun to do, rather than just staying in the house all the time.”
Anderson is just one of the 35 members on the Special Olympics of Philadelphia’s Temple Track Team that meets every Saturday to practice for two hours. (The participants selected the name Temple Track based on the location of where they practice. Temple University is not affiliated with the Special Olympics team.)
Michelle Cordell, sports director of the Special Olympics Philadelphia Chapter, said many of the athletes cross train between seasons. She said more than 743 children and adults with intellectual disabilities or developmental disabilities participate in more than 16 local, invitational, sectional and state events.
The Philadelphia Chapter offers training and competition in Aquatics, Track & Field, Basketball, Bowling, Softball, Tennis, Bocce, Long Distance, Running/Walking, Soccer, Volleyball and Floor Hockey.
The competition, Cordell said, is first rate.
“I absolutely love my job,” she said. “I love seeing the joy and excitement on their faces. They work hard. I have never met more dedicated athletes. They go the distance – and when they don’t think they can go anymore – they just keep on.”
Anderson, a runner, also participates in bowling and bocce. He said he loves meeting new people and socializing.
When he’s not working part-time as a maintenance worker or training for an event, he works as a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania. Cordell said he speaks to sponsors and volunteers about the Special Olympics program and how it has helped him. Last summer, Anderson spoke at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Special Olympics Summer Games held at Penn State.
“I have met Howie Mandel, Pat Croce and Muhammad Ali’s daughter,” Anderson said. “and Michelle,” he adds quickly smiling at Cordell.
“You have a busier social schedule than I do,” she said.
Lenny Lutts, of Northeast Philadelphia, is just one of the many volunteers. Lutts, who also coaches swimming and bocce, gives participates high-fives as they cross the line.
“I love to watch them improve their skills,” Lutts said. “It makes them feel good.”
Anderson is looking forward to competing in the Summer Games, which are held at Penn State in June.
While he said he likes receiving the medals, he always remembers the Special Olympics Oath –
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”