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Special Olympics paddling through

Special Olympics athletes master stand-up paddling in the Keys.
Special Olympics athletes master stand-up paddling in the Keys. Contributed

Special Olympics Florida-Monroe County is prepping for its sixth annual Stand Up Paddle Invitational, to be held Oct. 13 to 15 at Smathers Beach in Key West.

The event helped launch stand-up paddle as a sanctioned sport for Special Olympics Florida and creates opportunities for athletes to be selected to compete in the 2018 USA Games in Seattle, Wash., next summer.

Over the three-day Keys weekend,, more than 100 Special Olympics athletes from all over the country, including Florida, Texas, and South Carolina, will fill Key West along with their coaches and families.

Sue Cooper, owner of Lazy Dog Adventures on Stock Island, has been part of Special Olympics stand-up paddle since 2012. She is the event race director for paddle events throughout the weekend.

Dreu Murin, the voice of Special Olympics Nevada and the event promotion advisor, will be the emcee for the weekend and will be joined by Special Olympics Florida-Monroe County athlete Caleb Stowers at the microphone. Stowers is a Special Olympics Florida gold medalist.

The Key West schedule:

▪ Oct. 13, Special Olympics Florida-Monroe County opens with the athletes’ reception at Lucy’s Bar and Restaurant (320 Grinnell St. That is where athletes pick up race packets and/or register for events.

▪ Oct. 14 at Smathers Beach, 2601 S. Roosevelt Blvd., Cooper will hold a coaches’ meeting/discussion about the direction of stand-pup paddling in Special Olympics. There will also be a luau dinner dance followed by a dance party.

▪ Oct. 15, race day, will include a paddleboard race with a beach run obstacle course designed and officiated by Cooper, followed by adapted races for Special Olympics athletes.

Proceeds from all events will sponsor Special Olympics racers. There are a few ways to support the event and Special Olympics athletes in the Florida Keys:

▪ Register for the paddle/beach run race or any of the weekend’s events at http://bit.ly/24DAV1x.

▪ Sponsor or donate to the event; there are many options available. Contact Ruth Holland at ruthholland@specialolympicsmonroe.org for more information.

▪ Sponsor individual Special Olympics athletes to give them the opportunity to attend this weekend at no cost to them. Go to http://specialolympicsflorida.org/monroe/fundraise/sup-invitational/

▪ Donate money, an in-kind raffle donation, a store gift card (Publix, Winn-Dixie, Ross, TJ Max, Kmart, Outback Steakhouse or Miami Subs) or a Visa gift card.