The following was written by Jon Buzby, director of media relations for Special Olympics Delaware.
FRANKFORD, Del. — On an overcast Saturday afternoon on the basketball court at Camp Barnes, Will Duffy battled for position underneath the basket as his teammate’s shot went up. As the ball caromed off the back of the rim, Duffy soared into the air, grabbed the ball at the peak of his jump and laid it back in softly off the glass.
A chorus of gasps could be heard from the campers and counselors looking on in awe.
At 6-foot-6, the Dover resident stood out among his Special Olympics peers attending the annual three-day, two-night camp.
“He’s a great kid,” said Dave Manwiller, the Kent Wild Kat Area director, while watching Duffy leap up to block an opponent’s shot. “He’s a great athlete. He’s a great teammate.”
Duffy, 21, was attending the camp for the first time. He competed for the Kent County Wild Kats Special Olympics Area this past year, playing basketball and softball.
“My mom convinced me to join Special Olympics,” Duffy said. “Softball is my favorite.”
Duffy was all business on the court, but off it he could be heard laughing and joking with his newfound friends.
“He’s like a gentle giant,” one of the counselors said.
Duffy was one of nearly 60 Delawareans attending the first of two sessions of the annual Special Olympics camp held at Camp Barnes. The camp attracts athletes and counselors of all ages from across the state to the secluded complex nestled along Miller’s Creek.
“We are fortunate to be guests on what we consider to be the perfect setting to hold a camp for our athletes,” said Gary Cimaglia, SODE senior director of sports and camp director. “This facility allows our athletes to experience a true summer camp.”
On Day 1, campers arrived, ate lunch, and then enjoyed making tie-dyed shirts with their new friends and counselors, which included high school and college students along with longtime SODE volunteers.
Shortly afterward, student-athletes from the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association student-leadership conference arrived to participate in field day activities. The student-athletes teamed up with the campers in a variety of fun and challenging games, testing their skills, while at the same time creating a natural unifying opportunity.
“I was nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect,” Hodgson Vo-Tech sophomore Vaughn Wood shared while watching the basketball game. “I wasn’t sure what I’d get out of it, but I’m having a great time.”
Many of the college and high school counselors have volunteered at the camp for years, including Hannah Worsh of Newark.
“I was asked to come be the lifeguard,” recalled Worsh, who began volunteering at the camp when she was a sophomore at St. Mark’s and now continues while attending the University of Delaware. “And I couldn’t wait to come back after that first experience.”
The summer camp is now a family affair for the Worsh family as Hannah’s brothers, Logan, a junior at Del-Tech, and Ayden, a sophomore at St. Mark’s, volunteer with her.
The Wells family of Hockessin has also attended for years.
“We look forward to it every summer,” said George Wells, who attends with his twin sons, Mark and Tom, participants in the Special Olympics Newark Dragons Area. “It’s great father-son bonding time. Just us guys for three days and two nights.”
Michael Bowe and his younger brother, Tony, who share an apartment in Milford, have been coming to camp since it started 15 years go. This year, Michael showed up 50 pounds lighter.
“I eat right and exercise,” Michael shared. “And losing the weight has helped me with my Special Olympics events.”
The campers spent Sunday rotating between several activities including kayaking, arts and crafts, and traditional outdoor camp games. They also were instructed in archery and treated to a pontoon boat ride compliments of North Bay Marina.
“The weather was been terrific,” camp director Gary Cimaglia said of the comfortable temperatures that hovered in the low 80s. “I can’t remember a recent camp when we’ve had two straight days of such great weather.”
The second session of camp is August 16-18.