EUGENE, Ore. — The Special Olympics Torch of Hope is making its way to Newberg for the Summer State Games.
It will arrive on Saturday and so will the athletes.
Western Oregon is well represented with 119 athletes from Benton County, 77 from Douglas County and 135 from Lane County.
One of those athletes is 20-year-old Jordan Schwartz, who never played team sports even though he’s got moves.
Shooting hoops is what he wanted to do in high school, but fear got in his way.
“Because I thought I wasn’t going to be good at it,” Schwartz said.
That all changed when he signed up for the Special Olympics.
“Jordan loves it. I met Jordan in basketball, coached him in basketball,” said Special Olympics Coast Michele VanCleve.
First basketball–now it’s softball.
VanCleve is there guiding Schwartz, who was diagnosed as a child with ADHD.
And yet, Special Olympic athletes have all the concentration and drive of a pro, if not more so.
“They want to learn for you. They want to be successful. They want to please you,” VanCleve said.
Schwartz is now a star player on the Eugene Emeralds Special Olympics softball team. This weekend he’ll play in four games.
“Yeah, I’m ready, been ready. I think my team, our team, is going to do good at state finals,” Schwartz said.
Playing sports has given Schwartz a new outlook on life.
“I learned to get along with people, make friendships, have fun at a game,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz’s mom who watches on the sidelines also noticed a change.
“He’s a lot happier. He’s willing to go out into community a lot more than he used to,” Camille Schwartz said.
He is determined to give it his all this weekend, to hit hard and run fast.
“That’s all we want. We just want them to be successful and they want to do that for you,” VanCleve said.
In all, more than 3,000 Special Olympics Oregon athletes, coaches and other volunteers will be at the Summer State Games.