Special athletes train for Mon Valley/Washington County Special Olympics
Katie Swaney was just 15 when she started volunteering at the Mon Valley/Washington County Special Olympics swimming program.
Starting out at meets initially, she has been coaching the athletes at the program, operated out of the Mon Valley YMCA in Carroll Township.
“I've known some of these kids since they were babies,” said Swaney, who mentors special needs children at Pathways in Washington, Pa.
“I really enjoy it,” Swaney said. “I enjoy mentally challenged kids. They give me more respect than any teens.
“A lot of them live in group homes. They look forward to Friday nights.”
The Mon Valley/Washington County Special Olympics is the only such swimming program in the county. The team is sponsored through local fundraising efforts.
The team practices from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Fridays between October and May.
Darlene Hunter said her daughter, Ashly Hunter, now 46, has been swimming with Special Olympics for the past 30 years.
She started with Fayette County Special Olympics in Uniontown at the high school. Barry Hunter was attending a Lions Club meeting when he heard a presentation about Special Olympics. That's how he introduced his daughter, Ashly, to the sport.
Barry Hunter would eventually coach swimming and basketball for years before his passing a couple of years ago.
The Hunters have followed the program from Charleroi to Ringgold to the Mon Valley YMCA.
“Wherever we could get a pool,” Darlene Hunter said.
For many years, that was in Charleroi, where Laura Jane Amodei coached Ashly and many other successful athletes for many years.
“I've seen a lot of these athletes come and go,” Darlene Hunter said.
Ashly swam in the International Special Olympics in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., in 1999. There, she won two bronze medals, Those medals were among 200 she has collected over three decades of swimming. She used to play basketball as well. “She loves to swim,” said Darlene Hunter. “She comes here and never stops.”
Emily Wood learned about the Special Olympics swimming program while talking with Denise Green, who regularly accompanies her brother, Derrick, 41, to Special Olympics swimming. Wood said her grandson Stevie Wood, 14, of Collinsburg, started last season and competed at the regional meet at the University of Pittsburgh.
“He likes to swim and he likes his medals, and I enjoy seeing him get involved in things,” Emily Wood said.
Denise Green said Derrick Green first became involved in Special Olympics at age 5. He formerly played basketball and bowled.
Swaney has grown up at the YMCA, volunteering at summer camp and later working at the ARC Camp.
She is assisted by two other coaches. Dillon Spencer of Fredericktown is working on a major in special education. Kerri Weldon of Vestaburg is a stay-at-home mom with a 10-month-old daughter.
The team will compete April 5 at the regional event on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police mum on Rostraver house probe
- Monessen police investigating drive-by shooting
- New mayor of Charleroi could be named this week
- Expert to discuss the warning signs of fraud in Mon Valley stop
- Body pulled from river in Charleroi
- Charleroi man jailed in teen sex assault case
- Fallowfield man charged with DUI following crash
- Joe Campus bringing big band sound to Monessen Elks Lodge 773
- Cops nab Donora assault suspect
- Donora demolishing former Fifth Street School
- Charleroi bus rider seeks expanded transit services to Rostraver