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      Training for Special Olympics at camp

      For some of these athletes with mental disabilities, this is training for the Special Olympics, but for others it's just about having fun. The free UP Sports Training Camp at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay serves multiple purposes and caters to competitive and fun loving athletes alike.

      "One is for athletes to have a camp recreational experience. The other is to help those athletes who have been involved with Special Olympics Michigan to continue working on their skills," said Etienne Senker, Director of the UP Sports Training Camp.

      In fact, the five day camp has a demanding schedule full of activities to improve their sports skills.

      "I like to do basketball here. I can play defense and help other kids with it," said Autumn Reichel of Negaunee.

      The athletes have six different sports to train in this year, including tennis which is new, but for some, nothing is better than good game of polyhockey.

      "What I like playing about the sport is you can pass the puck to your teammate and have a really good time," said Sam Bradbury of Marquette.

      Sam has attended the camp for seven years and competes in the Special Olympics. This year has 30 campers age 10 to 26 from Marquette and Alger counties, most of whom return each year. For Senker who started the camp nine years ago, that's no surprise.

      "It's a time for these athletes to learn a little bit more about themselves and kind of come out to where they can blossom and grow, and they're like anyone else. They're just having fun and meeting other people," Senker said.

      The training camp also offers many nonathletic activities to its campers, like arts and crafts, nature hikes, and campfires, many of which could not be done without the 19 staff members who have volunteered their time. After nine years Senker looks forward to celebrating a milestone at next year's 10th Annual UP Sports Training Camp.

      Every camp has a theme. This year's is "Hail a hero, be a hero."