Softball in the Dome to benefit Special Olympics

Special Olympian Amanda Sheridan lights the torch as Head Official and Umpire, Max Christensen, right, watches during the opening ceremonies of the 2013 Jaycee's Special Olympics Softball Tournament at the Northern Michigan University Superior Dome in Marquette. The tournament takes place again this weekend. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — The 26th annual Mick Campbell Memorial Softball in the Dome tournament, a fundraising effort for Special Olympics Michigan Area 36, is scheduled Friday through Sunday at the Northern Michigan University Superior Dome.

This year, there will be around 26 teams competing from all over Michigan and surrounding states, with the first game beginning at 10 Friday morning and the opening ceremony at 6 the same day.

Chuck Crott, financial secretary of Marquette’s Knights of Columbus — which has hosted the event for about five years, said each team pays $600 to play in the tournament and all proceeds benefit Special Olympics Area 36.

Area 36 consists of over 300 athletes with intellectual disabilities from Marquette, Alger, Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw counties. Athletes who participate in the Special Olympics improve physical fitness and motor skills, develop self-esteem and confidence, and make friends, the website states. There are nearly 28,000 athletes in Special Olympics Michigan.

The goal this year is to raise $5,000, Crott said.

“Between $3,000 and $4,000 was raised the last couple of years,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to push it up this year.”

Statewide, he said, the organization donates over $300,000 to the Special Olympics every year.

“There’s always some kind of story that’ll come up during the game and event where people really go out of their way,” Crott said. “Two years ago, when I was emceeing the opening ceremony, we introduced and talked about who everything was for, all of our athletes, and I asked them all to come out on the field and take a lap around the bases.

“All the Special Olympians did it and the two teams that were going to be playing in the next game. They followed the Special Olympians all around and showed their support for them.”

Crott said this will be the first year that games almost go around the clock, as they start at 10 a.m. Friday and end 5 a.m. Saturday. Games will continue at 9 a.m. Saturday and go until 4 p.m. Sunday. There will be 20 teams of men and six teams of women.

For one game, teams will play against and with Special Olympian athletes, Crott said.

One of the Special Olympians will also be singing the national anthem at 6 p.m. during the opening ceremony.

Area 36 members will run the concession stand all three days. However, they will shut down around midnight until early the following mornings.