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Whitefish Mountain Resort hosts Special Olympians - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Whitefish Mountain Resort hosts Special Olympians

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WHITEFISH - Whitefish Mountain Resort hosted Regional Winter Games on Monday. ?Special Olympics Montana announced it would not be hosting a state-sponsored Winter Games back in early December.

Brady Streitmatter has been training all winter for the Special Olympics Regional Winter Games. The fifth-grade student at West Valley Middle School left his classroom Monday and headed out for the one-day-competition.

The competition brought nearly 200 athletes from across Northwest Montana and more than 70 volunteers were needed to make it happen. From skiing to snowshoeing to sit-skiing -- often times these games look more like a family reunion more focused on having fun -- rather than the finish.

"We truly get to volunteer and watch the kids that we've trained all winter to compete in these sports," said Emily Bertino who is one of Brady's trainers.

Bertino, who is also the executive director of DREAM Adaptive Recreation a non-profit whose mission is to bring outdoor recreation, says the 10-year-old spent weeks training on a sit-ski.

"That's for somebody who does not have the ability to stand and use poles or handheld support," Bertino explained. "So, they're fully strapped in and one of our super strong and very trained volunteers take them through the race course through the gates in the sit ski and they're times and they're just as competitive as any of the other athletes in the events."

Bertino says the games help Brady improve not just an athlete -- but she's also seen him grow as a person.

Glacier Area Special Olympics Montana director Terri Siefke told MTN News that the competitors ages ranged from eight to 80 -- and that they are true competitors. 

"This is like a family reunion for them.  A lot of them do not get to see everybody on a regular basis and so every Games that we have there is just so much energy that they all provide that you just can help to be happy and smile," Siefke said.

"It's so much for everyone. You hear the bells and cheering and the whistling around you and it's a big celebration of these athletes," added Bertino.

The athletes will now begin preparing for the spring games which will be in April in Kalispell. The State Games will be in Great Falls in mid-May.

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