Nearly 700 athletes from all across West Virginiawill descend on the Morgantown area June 4-6 for the 2004 Special Olympics West Virginia Summer Games hosted for the seventh consecutive year by West Virginia University.

The theme for this years Summer Games isGo the Distance.

We are really looking forward to another great weekend of competition and fun,said John Kahl, co-director of the Summer Games.Preparations have gone smoothly so far and were really excited, as are the athletes.

The official Opening Ceremonies will be held Friday at 8 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum as athletes, volunteers and spectators celebrate the spirit of competition and a weekend of fun and friendship.

We want to encourage members of the Morgantown and WVU communities to come out and cheer on the athletes at the Opening Ceremonies,said Eloise Tomei, University coordinator of events.Our goal is to make this an unforgettable and inspirational event for them.

Highlights of the Opening Ceremonies include a keynote address by Philip Reale, chairman of the Board of Directors, Special Olympics West Virginia, and a special tribute song by WVU theater major Trevor Nicholas. Nicholas is the son of popular entertainer Bobby Nicholas, who has performed at past ceremonies. The Flame of Hope will be lit and burn continuously throughout the weekend.

While some of the games begin Friday afternoon, most of the contests will be held Saturday, June 5, and Sunday, June 6, at various locations in and around the Coliseum, Shell Building and Natatorium.

Our athletes are absolutely thrilled to spend three days at WVU for Summer Games,said John Corbett, West Virginia Special Olympics CEO .This event provides them with opportunities to feel like true champions and to be on top of the world when they show all of us what they can accomplish when given the chance.

This year, some athletes will take part in actual rounds of golf at Mountaineer Golf&Country Club. Kayaking competition will be held on Cheat Lake. Mylan Park Fields will play host to unified softball. Other events include bocce, tennis, aquatics, track and field, cycling and wheelchair races.

When athletes are not competing, an array of activities await them in the popular Olympic Village, located in the parking lot next to the Shell Building. Athletes can rest and socialize by participating in karaoke, bingo, ring toss and more.

Two booths in the Olympic Village are designed to be both fun and educational, said Kahl. At theSpecial Smilesbooth, dentists will be on hand to conduct basic examinations for athletes who have registered for a screening. TheOpening Eyestent will provide eye examinations for the athletes.

Volunteers are still needed to help run the games, said Bobbie Bodkin, volunteer coordinator.

We need as much help as we can get,Bodkin said.

Volunteers can be athlete buddies, buddy leaders, helpers in the Olympic Village or assist with serving meals, she noted.

Volunteering to help during the Summer Games is a lot of fun and very rewarding,Bodkin added.

The games close at 11:45 a.m. Sunday (June 6) with special Closing Ceremonies at the WVU Track.

For more information on the games, or to register to be a volunteer, visit can also volunteer by calling 293-5489, or 1-888-988-2269, or by stopping by the WVU Shell Building registration area anytime throughout the weekend.