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Sons of Italy to host Special Olympics tournament

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Members of the Bellaire Sons of Italy and athletes gather with the Special Olympics athletes who are eager to compete in the sport of bocce June 12. The club will again host. Shown are Doug Hartlieb, executive director of the Bocce Committee, from front left, club member Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato and athlete Stevie Rawlins of Powhatan Point. Second row includes Bill Ault, left, president of the Sons of Italy, and Doty Toohey, bocce coach. Athlete Christopher Ramsey of Jacobsburg is at back left with Virgil Yingling, local coordinator for the Belmont County Special Olympics.

BELLAIRE — The Sons of Italy will again host a bocce tournament for the Special Olympics after the beloved event was curtailed last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 12 at the Sons of Italy, 3848 Belmont St.

Representatives of the club and of Belmont County Special Olympics spoke about the Italian sport and the athletes’ anticipation to play again.

“It is a good, fun day,” Virgil Yingling, local coordinator, said. “We will be playing against teams from Tuscarawas County and also from Carroll County, and we should have about 24 teams that day. We’ll award medals and ribbons. We play doubles. We will have eight teams of two, and each other county will bring eight teams of two. … About 48 bocce players.”

Yingling said the athletes are looking forward to playing.

“We’ve got more numbers this year than we’ve ever had. I think people were just so anxious to get back to doing something, and in our organization bocce is just now starting to catch on. We’ve been playing bocce the last five or six years with Special Olympics.”

He added that since they are hoping for a largely normal event, it is held outdoors and there will be no mask mandates.

“They canceled the whole entire season last year, and they canceled half the season this year. We have not had spring or summer games,” Yingling said.

“Very excited,” Christopher Ramsey, an athlete from Jacobsburg said.

“It’s fun to do,” Stevie Rawlins, an athlete from Powhatan Point said.

Both were state champions at the Ohio State Summer Games in 2019.

“It’s an event that even some with the most severe disabilities are able to participate,” Yingling said.

“We can use wheelchairs and adaptive equipment to help them.”

“We’re just honored to have everybody there,” Bill Ault, president of the Sons of Italy, said.

“We are very proud at the Sons of Italy to be able to sponsor this together. We have the courts and the facilities, they have the players and the athletes, it’s a joyous occasion to join these two groups together,” Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato, also a club member, said.

For more information or to support the Special Olympics, email sobelmont7@gmail.com.

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