By Carol Vaughn —
Members of the Slammin’ Clams basketball team were elated to hear the team has been chosen to participate in the Special Olympics USA Games, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., in June 2022.
The seven members of the team, six men and one woman, have not been able to play together for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are eager to resume practicing soon in preparation for their trip to the national games next summer.
Members are: Art Lane, Kevon Drummond, Stephen Stratton, Juan “Pee-Wee” Nottingham, Mark Savannah, Tyler Bloxom, and Walter Lankford.
The team is coached by Jesse Maples and Janie Pease.
Sandy Taylor, Special Olympics Virginia Eastern Shore Area 19 coordinator, made the announcement Monday, July 5, at a celebration held at the Eastern Shore YMCA in Onley, where the team practices.
“We are so proud of them,” Taylor said, adding, “This is a big, big deal for us.”
Special Olympics Virginia Area 19 includes Accomack and Northampton counties.
The basketball team has been together four or five years, although some members joined more recently.
“Because of their athletic ability in regional competition, they were selected to go to USA Games,” Taylor said.
For some on the team, the trip will be their first time traveling by airplane.
The team will join other athletes from around Virginia going to the games, leaving from Richmond.
It is the first time in recent memory a team from the Eastern Shore has been chosen to participate in the USA games.
Taylor before announcing the news handed each team member envelopes containing an invitation to the USA Games.
As the information sank in, applause, laughter, and whoops of joy filled the room — especially after Taylor said the team will be staying at Walt Disney World resort.
“We’re going to get brand-new uniforms. We’ve got to go to Richmond, like, three times, for them to measure for our uniforms, and we’re going to do some publicity shots,” Taylor said.
“I feel excellent about going,” said Stratton, of Wachapreague, who joined the team around two years ago.
“It’s good,” said Lankford, of Horntown, whose specialty is making three-pointers, about the announcement.
Bloxom, of Parksley, the only woman on the team, also joined around two years ago.
Her nickname on the team is “Tiger” — a nod to her aggressiveness on the court.
“I really live up to it,” she said.
Lane, of Atlantic, known unofficially as team captain, said the news came as a total surprise.
“It’s exciting, man; it’s great news,” he said, noting there will be “lots of practice” as the team prepares to go to Orlando.
Area 19 serves around 50 adults ranging in age from 21 to 65. The athletes come from as far north as Chincoteague and as far south as Cape Charles to participate.
The group currently offers four sports — bocce ball, basketball, bowling, and track and field. Special Olympics Areas 19 Eastern Shore is completely staffed by volunteers, according to Taylor.
“Although we receive some funds from the state level, we must meet most of our own expenses, such as transportation, travel expenses to competitions, uniforms, sports equipment, practice venues, and advertising,” she said, adding expenses are met through three annual events — Burton’s Bayside Farm Benefit Trail Ride, KOA Cork & Craft Festival, and Scott Farms Grader Shed Bash — as well as fundraisers such as Pampered Chef parties.
“We also receive generous donations from community partners and private individuals. Special Olympics Area 19 Eastern Shore is held together by a small group of dedicated volunteers,” Taylor said, adding, “We are in need of coaches and volunteers so that we may offer additional sports such as volleyball, golf, and swimming. If you would like to join a group that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and fill your heart with gladness, please consider volunteering with us.”
Please contact Sandy Taylor, Area Coordinator, at email@example.com for information.