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Softball duo set for Athens adventure

More than 7,500 athletes from 185 countries will converge on birthplace of the Olympics later this month in Athens.

Among them will be Robert Penning and Marcus Carberry, two softball players from Vernon set to compete in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

It will be the world’s largest sporting event in 2011 and a celebration of the abilities and accomplishments of people with intellectual disabilities.

“This is the ultimate goal for our athletes,” said Perry Doner, the local Special Olympic program coordinator. “We are very proud that they qualified with the B.C. team to represent Canada at the World Games. It reflects our commitment and success for our programs and their athletes. It also inspires all other athletes and our volunteers that they can make a difference and accomplish anything.”

Penning and Carberry have been playing softball for many years and were chosen to team up with players from Kelowna to go to the nationals last year in London, Ont. Their gold-medal performance earned them a berth at the World Games.

“Marcus has been training daily all year long, being involved in other Special Olympic programs such as power lifting, swimming and floor hockey,” said Carberry’s mother, Rose.

“For Marcus, the best part of it all is to be with the team, training in Kelowna twice a week.”

Penning is excited to have his mother and sister come to Greece to watch the Games.

“This is a trip of a lifetime; I can’t wait,” beamed Robert, who will be travelling the country with his family after the event.

The team leaves for a national training camp that begins Thursday, and will fly to Athens Saturday. The athletes will receive a hero’s welcome when they return to Vernon, Tuesday, July 5.

The Vernon branch of Special Olympics B.C. provides sports programs for individuals of all ages with intellectual disabilities. More than 100 athletes are enrolled in 14 different sports, training and competing throughout the year.

The society strives to enrich lives and it celebrates personal achievement through positive sport experiences.

For more information, or to volunteer, donate or participate, visit www.sobcvernon.ca, or call 250-306-8954.