June 23, 2018 08:55 PM
Thousands of athletes are competing this weekend in St. Paul for the Special Olympics Summer Games.
Cheers carried runners through to the finish line on Saturday, as track and field kicked off with the 200-meter race.
More than 3,000 athletes are competing this weekend in basketball, track and field, gymnastics, and swimming.
“It’s nice, an awesome spot to be at,” Kellen Kaasa said, one of the many athletes to spend months training for this.
Kassa will hit the court, playing defense for the West Metro Warriors in full-court basketball.
The 36-year-old has been part of Special Olympics since he was eight-years-old.
“It’s fun,” he said.
His entire family is involved in Special Olympics. His dad, Kellen, is a volunteer and both his mother and brother, Devin, work for the organization.
“He’s always one who gives it his all, all the time,” Devin Kaasa, who was only three-years-old when his brother started with Special Olympics. “I think as brothers it's always fun to see him compete and succeed.”
Devin and Kellen Kaasa have been encouraging each other since they were young.
“Started out at as a spectator getting to cheer him on, where he was always at my games,” Devin said.
They eventually teamed up, playing unified sports for 11 years. The pair has taken home two gold medals and two silver medals from the North American Invitational Tournament.
“A chance we were able to have through Special Olympics that we didn't have before, so it's been an absolute blast,” Devin said.
Special Olympics Minnesota CEO Dave Dorn told 5 Eyewitness News unified teams are part of these Summer Games through basketball.
“That’s really the future of Special Olympics, for people with and without disabilities to compete on the same team,” he said.
About 1,500 volunteers are supporting the athletes throughout the weekend. Dorn calls coaches, who are all volunteers, the “unsung heroes” for their dedication to these athletes.
This weekend is the culmination of months of practices and competitions.
“It’s really a celebration of their accomplishments and also inclusion,” Dorn said.
Kellen shared some advice for the other athletes.
“Just go out there and have fun,” he said. “Go out there and be brave.”
The community is encouraged to cheer on the athletes. All of the events are free to the public.
Events continue on Sunday. For a full schedule, click here.
Updated: June 23, 2018 08:55 PM
Created: June 23, 2018 12:08 PM
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