BENNINGTON — In a couple of weeks, the Special Olympics Vermont softball team from Bennington will march into the Summer Games at the University of Vermont.
They've been practicing twice a week for a while and on Thursday, they honed their skills against the Mount Anthony baseball team in a scrimmage at the middle school.
"Mount Anthony baseball comes up to help us do a scrimmage, annually they help and support us, tighten up our games and give us pointers to be the best we can be," said Chris Lantz, the Bennington Special Olympics coordinator. "They come out here and they have that spirit to help us and we really appreciate it."
The roster is full with 16 players heading to Burlington, where they'll compete against teams from throughout the state of Vermont. It's one of a handful of teams in different athletic disciplines that will represent Bennington and Southwestern Vermont.
"It's a huge deal, along with the 16 softball players, we have 20 bocce players and a bunch of track and field [athletes] going up, there's a whole Bennington contingent that will make this happen from our area," Lantz said.
The relationship between Special Olympics and Mount Anthony has been strong for many years. Lantz said this is his 16th year and they've been together at least that long. They've had games during halftime of soccer and basketball contests and the scrimmage is just another way to foster those relationships.
"It's about coming back to the community, we're just here helping them out," said MAU senior Pat Powers. "I helped out with it during basketball as well. [We've] gotten tight with them and we're ready to see them go kick butt in Burlington."
The first time Powers participated in the scrimmage was as a sophomore.
"I wasn't sure exactly what we were doing, but I love helping out people and they really enjoy us coming out and playing with and against them," Powers said.
"We're about inclusion and partnering and that's the movement of Special Olympics," Lantz added.
The Opening Ceremony on June 3 will include Shaftsbury native and three-time Olympic skier Andy Newell.