Several ADEC athletes are traveling to Terre Haute this weekend to participate in the Special Olympics Summer Games after earning a first place win in the area-level bocce ball competition.

Bocce is an Italian game with a goal of rolling the ball closest to the target ball, called a palina. Bocce as a Special Olympics support provides individuals with disabilities the opportunity to have social contact, develop physically and to gain self-confidence.

This year’s Summer Games, which will take place June 7-9 at Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology will mark the 50th anniversary of the program. The theme this year is the “Joy of Inclusion.”

From Special Olympics Indiana:

Founded in June 1969—just one year after the inaugural Special Olympics International Games in Chicago—and now serving more than 16,000 each year, the statewide nonprofit is a part of the global Special Olympics movement using year-round sport, health, education, and leadership programs every day across world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities.

The Indiana Summer Games are the organization’s largest annual event, featuring three days of state finals competition in eight Olympic-type sports: bocce, bowling, cycling, horseshoes, powerlifting, swimming, track & field, and volleyball. A record 2,868 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners representing 66 delegations from every part of the state will compete this year, with an additional 1,200 coaches, 1,800 volunteers, and thousands of additional family members and supporters expected to make the journey to Terre Haute.

“On June 6, 1969, Indiana State University professors Dr. Tom Songster and Dr. Judy Campbell took a leap of faith on a concept: that people with intellectual disabilities could benefit from sports programming and participation,” said Jeff Mohler, president and CEO of Special Olympics Indiana. “Now, 50 years later, Special Olympics Indiana continues to open hearts and minds towards people with intellectual disabilities—focusing on what they can do, rather than what they cannot do.”

The theme of the 2019 Indiana Summer Games is Joy of Inclusion, a phrase highlighting the true spirit of the Special Olympics movement—past, present, and future. A wide variety of anniversary-related activities, souvenirs, and surprises are planned for the Games, including a specially commissioned Joy of Inclusion sculpture; commemorative 50th anniversary medals provided to all athletes by the Terre Haute Visitors & Convention Bureau; custom trading pins and trading cards provided free to athletes and available for purchase; and official 50th anniversary uniform shirts for all competitors, produced locally by Pacesetter Sports and largely paid for by the Terre Haute community.

This year’s milestone follows the July 2018 observation of Special Olympics International’s 50th anniversary, wrapping up a two-year period honoring the legacies of the organization’s founders and athlete leaders while celebrating the tremendous progress made in Indiana and across the world in the areas of social inclusion and opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities.

“In this, our 50th Anniversary season, Special Olympics Indiana promises to use sports to build bridges of inclusion and break down barriers of discrimination and injustice,” Mohler said. “Celebrate 50 years of inclusion with us, both in your local community and across the great state of Indiana!”