Proceeds benefit Special Olympics Florida – Monroe County
At the last practice before this weekend’s two-mile Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Invitational set for Sunday, Oct. 18, athletes listened intently to volunteer Ruth Holland as she described the procedures for the weekend. For example, each Special Olympics Florida – Monroe County athlete will receive a raffle ticket for a prize (that doesn’t necessarily mean they will win, she explained) and as the host county the athletes should make sure that all of the visiting athletes feel welcomed.
Linnea Edwards, a SUP athlete for the past four years, jumped up to demonstrate the proper way to introduce themselves to their fellow competitors. “Hi, I’m Linnea, welcome to Key West, what’s your name, we are so glad you are here,” she said without taking a breath, all with a wide, genuine smile.
“I moved to Key West from Oklahoma and had wanted to do it so bad,” Edwards said before taking off on her own SUP board to practice. “My parents said if I lost 50 pounds they would buy me a board, and I did.”
Sixty special athletes will be competing at the invitational alongside many locals who signed up for the fundraising race. Karen Moore, a local jewelry designer who owns ZEN, is signed up for the obstacle course and donated items to the raffle. “This is my first paddle event that I am personally taking part in, so I’m very excited about that,” she said. “I love the spirit of the Special Olympics – they have such drive, dedication and that ‘I can do anything’ attitude. They inspire me.”
Moore’s business model includes donating and helping raise money for Special Olympics events in the Keys. In fact, she is collecting money to help sponsor two, three-person teams of special triathletes for March’s triathlon hosted by Florida Keys Community College.
Other items in the raffle include a WatersEdge SUP board and a Coreban Sonic Board and paddles, Yankee Freedom Dry Tortugas trips, and a WeCycle bike. Five tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the pre-party or on race day; winners do not need to be present to win.
Athlete Jennifer Averette says the paddleboard race is her favorite sport. A second-generation Special Olympics athlete, she can paddle up to four miles and likes to see nurse sharks, barracuda, and starfish on her excursions.
Molasses, a.k.a Moe the Sloth, from the Sherriff’s Office Animal Farm will be handing out awards after the race. All participants receive a medal and shirt. Registration is $25.
Special Olympics Florida – Monroe County is a year round sports and training non-profit that benefits people with intellectual disabilities and is an all-volunteer organization. For more information, to volunteer, sign-up, or sponsor an athlete, e-mail [email protected]. More information can also be found at paddleguru.com/races/SUPInvitationalKeyWest.
The Key West organization was the first to promote paddleboarding as a sport for Special Olympics athletes.