West Virginia Universitys long run as host of the Special Olympics West Virginia Summer Games will come to an end when the University hosts the games for the eighth and final year June 3-5. Special Olympics West Virginia officials announced May 9 that the Summer Games will be moving to Charleston for three years beginning in 2006.

Its rather bittersweet that this is the final year that WVU will be hosting Summer Games,said John Corbett, West Virginia Special Olympics CEO .Our organization and our athletes have been treated so well in Morgantown, and we will certainly miss the many friends that we have made during this time. But this is a great opportunity to bring the 2006 Summer Games to Charleston and introduce that community to all of the good that Special Olympics West Virginia offers.

WVU officials say it will be hard to say goodbye to the Summer Games, but there have been many wonderful memories from the past seven years.

Were not quite ready to say goodbye to WV Special Olympics yet,said Eloise Tomei of the Special Events and Ceremonies staff, who is working on making opening ceremonies Friday, June 3, at 8 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum extra special.

The official opening ceremony is really for the athletes, the volunteers and spectators to celebrate the spirit of competition and a weekend of fun and friendship,she said.This years theme is `Reach for Your Dreams,and were hopeful that residents of the Greater Morgantown community will turn out for it.

Highlights will include remarks by WVU President David C. Hardesty, words of encouragement from WVU student athletes, and a special tribute song by popular entertainer Bobby Nicholas. TheFlame of Hopewill be lit and burn continuously throughout the weekend. Some special touches are also being planned to mark the Universitys final year as the host site.

Director of the Summer Games competition John Kahl said the approximately 600 athletes from all parts of the state as well as the many volunteers are looking forward to another great weekend of competition and fun.

Preparations have gone smoothly so far,said Kahl,and were really excited, as are the athletes.

I believe that the athletes who have participated in Summer Games at WVU over the years will be talking about all of the good times they had for many years to come,Corbett added.The games have provided the athletes with some of their most cherished moments, and they are so appreciative to WVU , the City of Morgantown, and the thousands of community volunteers who helped provide such experiences.

While some of the games begin Friday afternoon (June 3), most of the competition will be held Saturday and Sunday (June 4-5) at various locations in and around the Coliseum, Shell Building and Natatorium.

Once again 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. Other events include softball, 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. 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 Nancy Moore, volunteer co-coordinator.

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

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

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

To help with the games, volunteers must complete an application form available at http://www.wvu.edu/specialolympics/ The volunteer forms are available in two formats: an online version or a PDF /downloadable version. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to use the online version if possible. For people without Internet access, application forms can be obtained by calling the Special Olympics toll-free hotline at 1-888-988-2269. Online forms can be filled out until June 3. The PDF /downloadable application must be received by May 24 to permit assignment confirmation by mail. If the mail-in application is received later than May 24, volunteers are asked to report to the registration tent one hour prior to their requested time.

All volunteers are required to show a photo ID at the volunteer tent.

The games close at 11:45 a.m. Sunday (June 5) at the WVU Track.