SEBASTIAN – Two hundred athletes representing five counties descended upon the North County Aquatics Center in the Sebastian area Saturday to swim their hearts out in the Area 10 Aquatic Games – a precursor to the state championship in October.
An hour or so into the competition, Gabrielle Ioffredo already had two blue ribbons to show for her swimming ability.
“I love swimming,” she said, adding that the secret to her quick moves in the pool is her older brother.
“He’s mean,” Gabrielle said, giggling. She explained that her brother chases her in the pool, which makes for good practice. “He flips me over.”
Danny Barcus, who also won a first place blue ribbon in the 25 meter freestyle, said he enjoys swimming because of how the water feels.
“I dig it,” he said of competing in the Special Olympics.
Gabrielle and Danny were two of 20 swimmers representing Indian River County in the regional competition.
The swimmers ranged in age from 8 to 43, though the Indian River County Special Olympics has at least one member who is older than 80 – but doesn’t swim.
“We’ve got some really good swimmers this year,” Indian River County organizer and coach Darla “Fruitcake” Danis said.
Coach Fruitcake said that the competitors participate in the various contests, they train year-round – for free.
“We really rely on the community’s generosity,” the coach said.
The Indian River County chapter of Special Olympics has sent one Olympian to Ireland for the World Games – Bowling. Next year, they plan to send another competitor to Greece for the World Games – Golf.
“We’re strapped this year,” Coach Danis said. “We depend on the kindness of others.”
Along with financial donations, the group can always use more volunteers, she said.
Anyone interested in finding out how they can donate or volunteer can call Coach Darla Danis at (772) 778-6400 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Financial donations may be made out to Special Olympics – Indian River County and mailed to 1235 Main St., Sebastian, FL 32958.
Indian River County Special Olympics Competitors
Ann Louise Skalacki