The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 10, 2013

Let the games begin: Central Park torch-lighting ceremony opens Special Olympics

JOHNSTOWN — Loretta Claiborne called it her favorite moment: The sight of her fellow Special Olympians reaching out to light the winter games’ torch.

“It’s time for us to have fun and compete on the snow and ice,” she told hundreds of fellow athletes during the annual torch lighting in Johnstown’s Central Park.

The moment marked the opening of the 2013 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games. This is the 12th consecutive year it has been held in the Johnstown area.

The event, which runs through Tuesday, attracted approximately 350 athletes from more than 21 counties across the state, plus others from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia and a pool of 1,000 volunteers to make it happen, organizers said.

Athletes will take to the slopes and ice today, with events scheduled at Planet Ice, the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, Blue Knob All Seasons Ski Resort and Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort.

“I’m excited,” said John Carson, 25, of Erie, who has been competing in the games for several years.

He’s been Alpine skiing since he was

7 years old and got hooked, he said, “because I love the hills.”

“It’s almost game time,” added Claiborne, of York, who served as a co-emcee for the opening ceremony.

“It’s going to be a great couple of days,” said Matt Aaron, Special Olympics Pennsylvania president. “We’re going to have great weather and these are going to be great games.”

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