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Two athletes, one coach to represent Spencer at Special Olympics USA Games

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By Shannon Brock

When June 2014 rolls around and Special Olympic athletes from across the country are vying for the gold in New Jersey, Spencer County will be represented by three of its residents — one more than ever before.

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Amanda Browning, 31, will bowl at the 2014 Special Olympic USA Games. This will be Amanda’s first time competing nationally and the first time the local Spencer County team has had a representative chosen to compete at the national level.
The mother-son team of Lynn Newton and Zach Newton will also represent Spencer County as part of the Pitt Academy men’s basketball team. Lynn is the team’s head coach and Zach, 21, is a player on the team. This is the second time the Newtons have competed at the national games. Zach was a part of Pitt’s softball team in 2010 and Lynn was an assistant coach.
To qualify, individuals or teams must win a gold medal at the state level. Athletes must be able to work with strangers, travel alone, be independent and have no major health issues, said Lynn Ware, Spencer County’s (and Amanda’s) coach and local coordinator.
Still, simply meeting those qualifications doesn’t mean athletes move on to the next level. The names of all those who qualify are put in to a proverbial pile and a select number of Team Kentucky members are drawn out. This year, the odds were in the favor of Amanda and the Pitt basketball team.
Team Kentucky consists of 39 athletes, one unified partner and 16 coaches from throughout the state. Kentucky athletes will compete in aquatics (swimming), artistic gymnastics, athletics (track and field), basketball, bocce, bowling, flag football and golf, according to a news release.
The Special Olympics receives no government funding; it is a private organization that relies heavily on fundraising and donations.
The cost per athlete to go to the national competition is $1,800, and the responsibility of fundraising lies on the home team.
Amanda, her parents, Jay and Gayle Browning, and her sister, Carrie, have already been fundraising and have plans to continue to do so over the next seven months.
Amanda and Gayle made and sold several crafts at the recent Spencer County High School craft show. They also sold tickets for a raffle.
This year, Carrie Browning will take the “Polar Plunge” in an effort to raise funds for Amanda’s trip.
Lynn Newton said she, Zach and the rest of the Pitt team have fundraisers planned as well.
“It’s $1,800 per player and I have 10 players on my team,” Lynn Newton said, adding that Pitt representatives have been working games at the Yum Center, as well as Papa John’s stadium, to raise money. They also set up booths at different events to sell jams, jellies and salsas, she said.
The Brownings, who moved to Spencer County from Ohio, have been involved in Special Olympics for years. Amanda joined a volleyball team in Ohio, and upon settling into Spencer County, connected with Lynn Ware and the Spencer County team. Now, in addition to bowling, Amanda also swims and does track and field.
Specials Olympics has provided a place where Amanda can build her confidence and make friends, Gayle said.
“There are no boundaries [between athletes],” Gayle said.
“They’re all the same and not judging each other,” Jay added.
Often, athletes who participate in Special Olympics spend a lot of time being told what they can’t do, Lynn Ware said.
“This shows them what they can do,” she said.
Amanda said she is excited to compete nationally for the first time and to meet new people. She’s already met her Team Kentucky coach.
Zach and Lynn Newton, having competed at this level before, know a little more of what to expect.
“It’s fun, exciting,” Lynn Newton said. “The opening and closing ceremonies are like the Olympics. They light the torch, there are concerts and speakers. It’s something they’ll always remember. Our athletes’ goal is to compete at a level like ‘normal’ athletes, and that’s what this is.”
“We, as coaches, want to make sure our athletes are in the spotlight, the attention is on them,” she said. “Being included, being part of a team is very important ... it boost their self esteem to know that they can compete.”

Want to donate?
An account is set up at The Peoples Bank in the name of the Spencer County Special Olympics. Donations are appreciated. For more information on the Spencer County team, contact Lynn Ware at Verbeck and Kaleher CPA, 477-2591.
Donations are also accepted through the Pitt Academy Special Olympics team. Note on the checks that it is to go to the national games basketball team.
Donations can also be sent to Special Olympics Kentucky with notation of where the money is to be applied, so include either “Amanda Browning” or “Men’s Basketball Team.”