NAMPA, Idaho — Smiles and chants filled Ridgevue High School in Nampa as athletes made their entrance for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Idaho Summer Games.
Special Olympics Idaho is an inclusive program that provides sports and competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities. For the first time since 2019, Special Olympics Idaho is coming together as a state for their Summer Games this weekend.
"They can showcase their gifts and skills, and they learn to be confident in employment and all kinds of things in our communities," Special Olympics Idaho CEO Kristi Kraft said.
From Twin Falls, to Canyon County, to Moscow, Special Olympics athletes from across Idaho are in Nampa this weekend to compete across four different sports: aquatics, basketball, track and field and cycling.
Friday's opening ceremony was also a send-off for Jacob Kerr of Coeur d'Alene, who will be representing Idaho at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany.
"It means so much," Kerr said.
Kerr has been golfing for 15 years. He will be representing Idaho on the international stage during the World Games next week.
"It feels great," Kerr said. "Accomplishment, and just getting the chance to see the culture, get to have fun, competition."
Jacob will be joined by his Unified Partner, Devin Riley of Caldwell. The Special Olympics has Unified Sports that pair athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to have them compete together as a team.
The two Idahoans will be alongside about 7,000 other Special Olympics athletes and Unified Partners from around the world, who will compete across 24 different sports.
"It's a global movement," Kraft said. "There will be over 100 countries in Berlin, Germany next week. They'll be arriving from all over the world."
Jacob and Devin are not the only ones representing Idaho in Berlin. Officer Nathan Gifford of the Boise Police Department will be running the final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a movement that fundraises and brings awareness to the Special Olympics.
Officer Gifford has been doing different fundraisers and events for Special Olympics Idaho over the past three years.
"It's awesome," Gifford said. "It's great. I was really surprised to get picked, but it's an honor to be able to go over and be represent Idaho law enforcement internationally is an amazing experience."
The Idaho Special Olympics Summer Games will be taking place Saturday in Nampa.
Saturday's schedule of events:
Track & Field - Ridgevue High School, 9 a.m.
Basketball - Ridgevue High School, first games start at 8 a.m.
Aquatics - Nampa Rec Center, 9 a.m.
Cycling - Sage Valley Middle School Track, 9 a.m.
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