HELENA — The Special Olympics oath states: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Those words emphasize the importance of effort and for trying one’s best, which nearly 60 years later resonates with Special Olympic athletes across the country. It is something that these Montana Special Olympians live by each and every day.
Sportsmanship is the name of this game for the Tri-County Twisters of Helena. This unique group of athletes, coaches and volunteers help to support and encourage each other both on and off the track. Not only will they train and compete in Bozeman this year, but they continue to spend time outside of Special Olympics together, by visiting local museums, playing volleyball and Bocce as well as attending community events in the Helena area.
The Twisters team has seen growth both in numbers and strength thanks to program coordinators Bruce Brensdal and Chris Corcoran. Brad Patterson’s entire family and the rest of his coaching staff have been working with the team for at least the previous decade and have enjoyed every minute with these special athletes, “It’s just starting the next generation off right, and yeah, it’s been a really good experience.”
Patterson highlighted the teamwork, sportsmanship and positivity that he sees daily. He reminded MTN, “That’s how Sports are supposed to be, working hard towards a final goal, cheering on their peers, (It’s) good to see that positivity, working hard and achieving their goals, for me, as a coach, that’s why I am still here, it’s really inspiring.”
Patterson’s coaching staff includes Shiloh Corcoran who helps coach the team now. However, she started out as a unified player and athlete before taking over duties as coach.
“It’s been fun this year to see them start out, to now. They are running faster without stopping, they’re jumping and throwing further. It’s just fun to watch some of these kids, I have known them since they were 8 or 9 and now they’re about to go into high school, so it’s very fun to watch them grow up," said Corcoran.
Harley Lightfoot and Rosie Kemper are a third grade unified pair for the Twisters and are eager to hit the road to Bozeman together. “For our Track meet in Bozeman, we’re going to go to state, and we’re just gunna do what we have been doing, just for the reals now,” clarified Kemper.
The Tri-County Twisters are a part of the middle school club ran through C.R. Anderson Middle School for all kids ranging in ages from 7 to 15 years old. The 2023 Special Olympics Montana State Games are scheduled for May 17-19 in Bozeman as these Twisters prep for their track and field events such as the Turbo-Jav throw, 60-meter dash, standing long jump, and the softball throw.
Once these athletes age out of the Tri-County Twisters they can work towards becoming a member of their high school unified team before making it to the Helena Halos.