(WBIR-Lenoir City, Tenn.) Every Sunday, from January to March, 12 East Tennessee athletes keep the hardwoods warm inside the Lenoir City High School Gym. The players are members of the Fort Loudoun Area Special Olympics group which covers both Monroe and Loudon counties.
The dozen players will compete in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey. Ten members of the group will play basketball for Team Tennessee and the two other athletes plan to run track during the mid-June event.
"Whenever I have bad days they always remind me to not give up," said track competitor Oscar Artalijo. "If you focus on a sport you really love, you'll get to a bar that you never expected."
The games will host 3,500 athletes from all 50 states.
"Most athletes only have a learning disability," said group coordinator Robin Bowen. "Coming to the Special Olympics, everybody is equal and everybody plays the same ball game."
The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games are planned for Mercer County, New Jersey beginning June 14, 2014.
According to Bowen, it costs $700 per athlete and $8,000 for the entire Fort Loudoun Area delegation to attend.
Bowen told WBIR donations are being accepted at:
Special Olympics-Fort Loudoun Area
192 Oonoga Way
Loudon, Tennessee 37774