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Wadena Special Olympics returns

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Special Olympics is back at WDC for the first time since the 2010 tornadoes, and the team played in the Area 5 basketball tournament in Brainerd Wednesday, Feb. 22. From left are Brenden McLeod, Tawnie Blair, Zach Burcham, Andrew Bendlen, Trent Melby and Caitlyn McLeod.

After being on hiatus during the school year following the June 17, 2010 tornadoes, Special Olympics is back at WDC Schools.

Special Olympics Minnesota offers several different sports, but basketball was the choice of WDC High School athletes in Kari Hanson's special education class.

After practicing about two months during the morning Adapted Physical Education class, the WDC Wolverines traveled to Brainerd to play in the Area 5 Basketball Competition on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

"We practiced shooting, we practiced dribbling, we practiced wall passing," student Tawnie Blair said.

Student Zach Burcham said one of the best parts was getting the day off from schoolwork.

The WDC student council decorated the bus before they were sent off.

The team had two games, playing Little Falls and Staples-Motley and interacting with the other schools a bit.

"We got to meet them and shake their hands at the end of the game," Burcham said.

Some of their family members made it to Brainerd to watch them as well, he said.

They didn't win, but got individual awards. Some team members were better at offense while others were better at defense.

Awards were given out for dribbling, shooting and wall passing.

"We had a great time," Blair said.

Some of the kids had played basketball before, but for others it was a new experience.

Along with Wadena County, Area 5 also includes Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison and Todd Counties. Special Olympics Minnesota has its own system, separate from the Minnesota State High School League. It is not limited to students and some teams are made up of adults.

The WDC athletes are planning to return to Special Olympics next year, Hanson said.

Paraprofessional Bobbie Bullard said that in more than 15 years that she has worked at WDC, they have had a Special Olympics team except for the previous school year when WDC was just rebounding from the tornado that took out the high school building. They have now organized the program again.

A new high school is being constructed across the highway.

Student Caitlin McLeod said they would rather be in their own building rather than sharing space with the college.

Hanson, who is a first year teacher, said Special Olympics is for the kids to have a fun experience and to see them succeed.