Friday, May 13, 2011

York County Special Olympics Brings Athletes and Community Together

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
A very special annual event was held on the fields at Shapleigh School last week when approximately 400 participants took part in the York County Special Olympics Spring Games.
Special Olympians from throughout York County attended the annual event, the results of which are used to place participants in competitive divisions in the Maine Special Olympics Summer Games held each June in Orono.
The York County Games are the third largest in the state with only the games in Penobscot and Cumberland counties drawing larger fields, Mark Capano of Special Olympics said. There are 13 events held in the state each year.
The athletes take part in track and field events including a special division for athletes using wheelchairs and other devices.
There were, Capano said, 26 teams included in this year’s field. The numbers of athletes and teams, he said, are about the same as last year.
Dennis Dean of Kittery, the event manager from 1992 until this year, said the event “has grown a lot” over the years. He said there were 100 or 150 athletes involved when the event was initiated in the late 1980s.
Dean said this year “seemed like time to make the transition” but stayed on to help Capano. He said there was “no special reason” for stepping down. “It just felt like the right time to do it.”
There were, this year, well over 100 volunteers on hand to assist in the games. These included student athletes from Traip Academy in Kittery who ran the track and field events. “They did an exceptional job,” Capano said.
The event was held in Wells for its first two years but then it was moved to Kittery. Dean immediately contacted Traip Athletic Director Al Young and the involvement of the school’s track team began.
Community involvement in the games is high, he said. Organizations involved include the Knights of Columbus, York Hospital and Kittery Rotary.
Capano said that more than 30 workers from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were also involved to “set up and break down” for the day’s activities.
A large number of York County law enforcement officers were also involved, he said. These included the York County Sheriff’s Department, Berwick, North Berwick, York, Kittery and Wells police departments.
The large number of volunteers also included people from First Congregational Church of Kittery Point and the Kittery Public Works and Recreation Departments.
Athletes compete for ribbons in each event, with the top six finishers winning ribbons.
Special Olympics, founded in 1968, is the largest sports organization in the world for children and adults with special needs. The program includes millions of athletes in 175 countries.
According to its web site, the Special Olympics hopes to “give them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing of gifts, skills and friendship.”
Photo caption: Officer Candice Noble and Officer Michael Grogan from the Eliot Police Department help award and congratulate young participants in the York County Special Olympics ceremonies on May 5. (Photo courtesy Officer Candice Noble)

Bill Green to Deliver YCCC’s 16th Commencement Address

York County Community College president, Dr. Charles M. Lyons, is pleased to announce that Bill Green, news reporter/anchor and host of WCSH 6 Bill Green’s Maine, will deliver the 2011 commencement address to 138 graduates on Saturday, May 14, at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Mr. Green will share from his personal experiences, congratulate the students on their accomplishment as well as challenge them to live and work in Maine.
Bill Green is a lifelong Mainer. Born in Bangor, he was educated in Bangor schools and the University of Maine. He worked his way through college as a full-time studio cameraman at WLBZ2 in Bangor.
Bill has worked at all levels of on-air television. His Bill Green’s Maine, now in its twelfth season, is the most watched program in its time period. He debuted as a sportscaster on WLBZ 2 in 1975 and has currently been on-air in Maine longer than any other television broadcaster.
In 1993, Bill came off the anchor desk to produce feature stories and documentaries, including 10 documentaries on Maine and the environment under the banner “Color Me Green,” in addition to his weekly features, “Green Outdoors” and “My Hometown.” In 2000, Bill Green launched an original series, “Bill Green’s Maine.” This program has made him one Maine’s best-known storytellers.
York County Community College, established in 1994, is one of seven community colleges in the Maine Community College System. The college enrolls more than 1,400 students in associate degree and transfer programs and over 2,000 individuals in non-credit continuing education and professional development areas.
Photo caption: Bill Green, of “Bill Green’s Maine” on WCSH 6, will deliver the 2011 commencement address to YCCC graduates on May 14. (Photo courtesy

Maine Receives Nearly $21 Million to Upgrade Rail Service

Governor Paul LePage learned on Monday, May 9, that the Amtrak Downeaster, which is operated by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, was approved for a $20.8 million grant from the US Department of Transportation.
“We are extremely pleased that the Downeaster will be receiving over $20 million dollars in federal grant money that will make the Downeaster not only faster, but also will allow for more frequent trips between Portland and Boston,” said Governor LePage. “More frequent and faster trips will benefit not only passengers, but Maine businesses as well.”
In March, Governor LePage had sent a letter of support with the grant application for the Downeaster, and also authorized the application for the funds. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood thanked Governor LePage for his support of improved rail service between Maine and Boston in a letter last month.
Maine was one 24 states that applied for over $2 billion in available high-speed rail funds. This money became available when money originally awarded to Florida was rescinded after plans for a Florida high-speed rail line were canceled.
The $20.8 million will be used to construct a 10.4-mile section of double track between Wilmington and Andover, Mass. These track upgrades will allow two trains to operate at the same time on this section of the line, shortening delays and improving the dependability of the Downeaster.
The project is part of nearly $800 million in projects to improve rail service in the crowded Northeast, and $2 billion going to rail projects in 15 states nationwide.
Photo caption: Recently announced funding from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation will help improve Maine’s rail service. (Photo courtesy