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High school students compete in Special Olympics “Bocce Bonanza”

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ARCATA – “You get this ball. It's like bowling. But there's no holes. So you just hold it, and there's a little ball at the far end and you try to hit it," Mark Salamunovich, an Arcata high school student, explained.  

Wednesday was the third annual Special Olympics Bocce Ball Tournament held at Larson Park in Arcata. Students from all over the North Coast showed up, in uniform, to compete.

“This is a great opportunity for kids and athletes of all levels be able to compete and have fun in a healthy competition. Today it's bocce. Another day it might be soccer. But today it's bocce and everybody’s got their bocce game face on,” Mark Wheetley, Mayor of Arcata, said.  

More than 50 students competed in the day’s events. Each team played at least two bocce games and medals were given at an awards ceremony in the afternoon.

“This gives them a sense of worth. Being with the other kids and they're not isolated from everybody else. They play a game just like all the other students,” Roy Debrichy, an Arcata High aid, said.  

The Bocce Bonanza is a collaborative effort with Northern California's Special Olympics and Humboldt State University. 

The class that hosts the event is part of HSU’s "Recreation Administration" major aimed at teaching programming skills and giving back to the community.

“Everybody needs recognition and this is something that they get. They get recognition for what they do and they all get to gain confidence and play with each other and learn how to communicate and everything,” Rocky Brown, a basketball player for HSU, said.

And though the high school students may have been the focus of the games, anyone involved got something out of the day. 

“Another important part of it is for all of the people who are participating and supporting the program who don't have disabilities or don't experience a world with disabilities, to understand that we're more alike than we are different. And so to break down those barriers and to create a more inclusive community,” Jayne McGuire, associate professor of Recreation Administration at HSU, said.