SPRINGFIELD — He’s long competed in the State Summer Games of the Special Olympics and he’ll realize a huge dream in July by playing in the World Games of softball out in Hollywood.
Dreams do come true, Allen Cameron will tell gladly tell you. But first there is business to be done – as in giving back, and in a big way.
The Springfield father of three is to deliver a pep talk to the more than 2,000 athletes, coaches and families expected in town for the State Summer Games that begin Friday in Springfield. Opening ceremonies are at 7:30 p.m. that evening at Hammons Student Center.
“We’ve got little kids in our area and we’re going to tell them the same things – don’t give up, listen to the veterans who have been here forever,” Cameron said. “It has meant the world to me.”
The State Summer Games, back in Springfield for the first time since 2011, run Friday through Sunday.
Organizers say they need volunteers – with a special emphasis for Sunday volunteers. The track and field competition is from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at Plaster Sports Complex on the Missouri State University campus. Call 417-524-5517.
“I think people really don’t understand how much of a sporting event we make it,” said the Director of Development for Special Olympics of Southwest Missouri, Robin Anderson. “(Athletes) don’t just come and run around the track. They are very talented. We’d just like them to see who we are and what we have.”
For Cameron, support of the State Summer Games – and that of another important event which benefits the local chapter, the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper – has helped him realize his dreams.
Cameron, 41, has competed in every event in the State Summer Games over the past three decades and has gravitated to his favorite sport, softball. The die-hard Kansas City Royals fan will play in the Special Olympics World Games in July in Los Angeles.
“I was 8 ½ years old when I started. I’m 41 now. It’s taken me a long time (to reach the World Games),” Cameron said. He later added, “I’m going to give back as much as I can. At some point, I’m going to be a head coach and give back.”
This weekend’s compeition is one of two important summer events for the southwest Missouri chapter.
Cameron and other Special Olympics athletes also will volunteer during the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, set for Aug. 13-16 at Highland Springs Country Club.
It’s the local chapter’s way of giving back even more and by raising money for its own efforts, considering Special Olympics of Southwest Missouri receives a portion of the PCCC’s fundraising.
Anderson and her only other full-time staffer, Stevie Lain, as well as athlete-volunteers will man the tournament’s parking lots from the Monday qualifiers to the Sunday championship.
“It’s hard work. I’m not going to lie to you,” Anderson said.
But it’s worth it, she said.
Any revenue helps Special Olympics with its annual budget because the organization hosts competitions throughout the year.
The chapter is doing its part this summer by selling $25 PCCC tickets, which are good for the four-day tournament as well as daily prizes such as restaurant gift cards and grand prizes of $10,000 and a 2015 Ford Mustang.
The chapter also is selling its own $5 raffles, with the winner to receive a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado.
For Anderson, call it a labor of love.
“I can’t ever imagine not doing this,” Anderson said. “I volunteered for 18 years before I was on staff. It’s more than just a job. The athletes teach me a lot more than I ever give back.”
State Summer Games
Friday, May 29
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Volleyball Competition, Hammons Student Center
7:30 p.m.: Opening Ceremony, Hammons Student Center
Saturday, May 30
7 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Track & Field Competition, MSU Track & Soccer Complex
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Aquatics Competition, Drury University Breech Pool
10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Powerlifting Competition, Hammons Student Center
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Victory Village, Bear Blvd
12 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Healthy Athletes Park (Fit Feet, FunFitness, Healthy Hearing, Special Smiles, Med Fest)
7 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Bingo & Dance, Hammons Student Center
Sunday, May 31
7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Track & Field Competition, MSU Track & Soccer Complex
To volunteer, go to somo.org/summergames#Volunteer