By Carol Vaughn — The Slammin’ Clams basketball team from Special Olympics Virginia Area 19, which includes Accomack and Northampton counties, was chosen to participate in the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Fla., in June.
It was the first time in recent memory that a team from the Shore was chosen to participate in the USA games, according to Sandy Taylor, Special Olympics Virginia Area 19 coordinator.
The team had been preparing for the USA Games since being informed a year ago it was selected.
The USA Games, held June 5 to 12, included more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean and 125,000 spectators during one of the country’s most cherished sporting events.
Slammin’ Clams team members joined athletes from around Virginia to travel to the games from Richmond by airplane — it was the first airplane trip for most of the Shore athletes, including Janie Pease, who coaches the team along with Jesse Maples.
“It was a really awesome experience,” said Pease.
The team stayed at Walt Disney World’s All-Star Sports Resort.
In addition to participating in the opening ceremonies on Sunday and playing basketball games, they spent an evening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a day at the Magic Kingdom, and got to see the Harlem Globetrotters play at Orlando’s Amway Arena, Pease said.
The Slammin’ Clams placed fourth in the nation at the games, despite having fewer members than is optimal.
Their motto was “Never give up,” Pease said, adding, “They played their hearts out.”
The team has been playing together for around six years, although some members joined more recently.
In addition to the excitement of the team being selected for the USA Games, team captain Art Lane, of Assawoman, also is featured in a Coca Cola television commercial, which aired during coverage of the games.
The soft drink company is a founding partner and global sponsor of Special Olympics.
Lane traveled to Richmond in April for a video shoot for the commercial.
Team members who went to the USA Games are Lane, Kevon Drummond, Roger Hamilton, Walter Lankford, Juan Nottingham, Stephen Stratton, and Joe Gittinger, in addition to coaches Pease and Maples.
The team left the Shore Friday, June 3 for Richmond, from where they joined other Virginia athletes to travel to Florida.
Slammin’ Clams members received two sets of new uniforms for the USA Games, along with Nike tennis shoes, other apparel, roll-on bags, and other items as part of their selection for the games.
One of the highlights for athletes was trading commemorative pins with athletes from other states at the games.
Additionally, athletes at the games, through the Healthy Athletes program, were given the opportunity to get free health checks, including hearing, eyesight, and dental checks, according to Pease.
As result, five Slammin’ Clams members are receiving new eyeglasses and prescription sports goggles, and two received new hearing aids, all free of charge. Special Olympics Virginia Area 19 provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities on the Eastern Shore.
Contact Sandy Taylor, area coordinator, at [email protected] for information about volunteering or donating to the Virginia Area 19 Special Olympics.
The organization is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Special-Olympics-Virginia-Area-19-Eastern-Shore-107936158537706, where additional photos and videos of the Slammin’ Clams at the USA Games may be viewed, among other information.