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Helena students create bond on and off the field for Special Olympics Summer Games

Helena Unified Pair train for SOMT summer games
Posted at 4:11 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 18:11:06-04

HELENA — Special Olympics Montana is an event that brings everyone together from all parts of the state. It showcases competition and teamwork while creating great memories. Two Helena middle schoolers have been gearing up for the Summer Games while creating a special bond along the way.

Unified Sports in the Special Olympics are a significant part of the Games. It’s a way to build new friendships and a way for people whose paths may not normally cross to connect, and that is exactly what happened with Willow and Camille.

Every week outside of C.R. Anderson Middle School on the track field, you can see athletes and coaches of the Tri-County Twisters practicing for the State Summer Games. They are excited and ready to compete in Billings.

“I'm most excited for basketball. No, long jumping and the 100,” said Willow Young, an athlete on the Tri-County Twisters.

This is Willows's first year competing in Special Olympics, and she is ready to go the extra mile for the 2024 Games.

“I am doing track and field, and I’m running the 100 and sprints, and then I like doing the 100, 500 in Special Olympics,” said Willow.

Her connection with the Games has grown with the teammates around her, and there's one in particular who has been with her every step of the way

“Oh, being with all the groups and playing with Camille,” said Willow.

Camille and Willow practicing with the Tri-County Twisters

Willow's partner for the Games is Camille Patterson. The two originally met through basketball, and now they are Unified Partners, working together in competitive team play.

For Camille, being involved is a family tradition.

“My dad's been a coach for a while, and so he kind of introduced me to it," Camille said. "And when I was little, I'd go and watch the practices, and finally when I was old enough, I got to join in, which is really fun."

Both Willow and Camille are students at C.R. Anderson, and Special Olympics have helped grow their bond on and off the field.

“She’ll come up to my locker and say hi if she is passing at the same time I’m at my locker,” said Camille.

The Special Olympic Games are an experience that never gets old for Camille.

“Seeing the joy on all the athletes' faces when they finish running or when we get our medals for basketball, it’s super fun,” said Camille.

Willow and Camille compete in unified basketball, bowling and track.

The Special Olympics Montana State Summer Games will kick off with an opening ceremony on May 15 at 6:30 p.m. in Billings.