2012-09-27 / Sports

Making a splash for Special Olympics

High School student arranges charity water polo tournament
By Stephanie Sumell

MAKING FRIENDS—La Reina High School junior Madelyn Sickle poses for a photo with Miguel, a Special Olympic athlete, at a swim meet held recently in Ventura. MAKING FRIENDS—La Reina High School junior Madelyn Sickle poses for a photo with Miguel, a Special Olympic athlete, at a swim meet held recently in Ventura. When La Reina High School junior Madelyn Sickle helped out at a recent Special Olympics swim meet at the Ventura Aquatic Center on Kimball Road, she was touched by the athletes’ unwavering, often boisterous, team spirit.

“This little girl, who was maybe 10, was so excited,” she said. “She got on the block and (the other swimmers) were so enthusiastic, we had to tell them to quiet down.”

When the little girl won her race, the cheering got even louder.

“As soon as she got out of the pool, her whole team enveloped her,” Madelyn said. “It was really sweet.”

To make such moments possible, Special Olympics of Ventura County, which serves close to 800 intellectually disabled athletes a year, needs financial support.

So on Oct. 6 and 7, with the help of South Coast Aquatics, California Lutheran University’s Rotaract Club, the Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks and the Interact clubs at La Reina and Thousand Oaks high schools, Madelyn will host the inaugural Tournament of Hope, an allgirl water polo competition at California Lutheran University’s Samuelson Aquatics Center.

After costs are paid, all proceeds will go to Special Olympics.

The sporting event is open to female athletes 18 and younger. Thus far, 12 Southern California teams have registered, and Madelyn hopes the number will climb.

“A big portion of the ($500) entry fees goes to the referees,” said the 16-year-old Camarillo resident. “The more teams that sign up, the better.”

Madelyn, who swims for La Reina and plays water polo for South Coast Aquatics, came up with the idea for the tournament in January, when she and her mother, Stacia Sickle, were discussing ways they could help the community.

Attempting to combine her love for water polo and her compassion for people with special needs, Madelyn decided to organize the charity event. But in order to make her dream a reality, the teenager needed help.

First, she sought the support of Matt Warshaw, the director of South Coast Aquatics, a wellknown aquatics club in Southern California.

Warshaw, now the tournament’s director, dived right in to help.

“What a great cause,” he said. “I thought it was a great idea and an opportunity for our athletes to give something back.”

In July, Carol Schreiber of the Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks helped arrange a meeting with CLU president Chris Kimball.

After speaking with Warshaw, Madelyn and her mother, Kimball offered up the aquatic center, free of charge.

“It was so generous,” Sickle said. “There are people out there who just want to help for the goodness of helping.”

Jan Radnoti, regional sports manager for Special Olympics Ventura County, said she was thrilled about Madelyn’s support for the program, which funds and organizes year-round sporting events for people with intellectual disabilities.

Citing a Yale University study, Radnoti said Special Olympics athletes feel more confident, happy and accepted.

“It helps them socially, physically and mentally,” she said. “It gives them the opportunity to have fun and interact with the community.”

Madelyn began volunteering with Special Olympics five years ago when she joined the Ventura County chapter of National Charity League, a mother-daughter organization committed to community service.

A longtime volunteer for the Special Olympics, Sickle said her daughter is at ease when she works with Special Olympics athletes.

Sickle hopes the tournament will deepen Madelyn’s love of helping others.

“I want her to have a sense of success,” Sickle said. “The feeling that maybe, on some small scale, she made a difference.”

Hoping to raise at least $4,500 for the cause, Madelyn encourages athletes and community groups to get involved.

“When I (volunteer), the athletes demonstrate such teamwork and integrity,” she said. “Making these events possible for them is really special.”

To learn more about the Tournament of Hope or to register a team, contact Warshaw at (805) 660-2082 or matt@southcoastaquatics.com.

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