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Sunny skies make for successful Special Olympics Winter Carnival

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Al Larson drives Linus Meyer's team Thursday, Feb. 27, at the confidence Learning Center. in East Gull Lake. The riders were participants and helpers with the 40th Annual Region 5 Special Olympics Winter Carnival. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

EAST GULL LAKE — After a two-week delay because of cold temperatures, the Confidence Learning Center’s 40th annual Special Olympics Winter Carnival went off without a hitch Thursday, Feb. 27.

Below-zero temperatures forced organizers to move the event back, but luckily the sun came out in full force Thursday, bringing with it mild temperatures in the 20s, making ideal winter conditions for the day’s activities.

Local Special Olympics athletes and volunteers flooded to the camp for a day of outdoor winter fun with snowmobiling, dogsled rides, broomball, tubing, ice fishing and other activities.

“We have about 250 school-age students here today — all with disabilities of some sort — along with their teachers and paraprofessionals and such. So almost 300 people here today,” camp Director Bob Slaybaugh said. “They’re enjoying a great day with the weather. I mean, it’s just a perfect winter day.”

Athlete Abbey Nelson summed up the day succinctly: “It’s fun!”

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After finishing a ride with Linus Meyer’s team of sled dogs, Nelson and fellow Pequot Lakes athlete Logan Arnold said they also enjoyed ice fishing. Spending time outside of the classroom was a perk, too.

“It’s a day off from school and no homework,” Arnold exclaimed.

Unified partners from Brainerd High School — student athletes who participate in events with Special Olympians — came out for the festivities, too, like Lucy Boche and Braylee English-Platt, who were having fun on the tubing hill. Athlete William Brant also enjoyed both tubing and snowmobiling with his unified partner Cayden Kleffman.

Members of the Sno-Serpents and Merrifield Marathons snowmobile clubs, like Rod Skorich, were on hand giving snowmobile rides. Two of the sleds were donated by Brothers Motorsports in Baxter. Slaybaugh said the groups made more than 300 trips around the frozen, snow-covered lake by about 1 p.m.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Slaybaugh added. “... The kids just like being out and doing normal winter activities.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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