MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - For Julie Johnson, bowling isn't just a hobby. She competes every year in the Special Olympics for the sport. While she says competing is a blast, there's a lot more to being an athlete in the Special Olympics that draws her in.
"I really like it because I get to do these fun activities with these people I really like, and I don't know, they're just so accepting and they're really nice and fun to hang around with," Julie says.
Julie is looking forward to swimming and bowling in the Special Olympics this year, and her mom, Jennifer, says the program has helped Julie in more ways than one.
"I find her attitude to be better. She’s very confident about herself. She's going to go and she's going to rock it. All her teammates are there cheering her on because they're all the same, and swimming, there's confidence there," says Jennifer.
Jennifer adds that as a parent, she enjoys watching the Olympics because the community and atmosphere is unlike any other.
"They're all just always happy, they're all full of life, you know, there's no judgment and they're all just excited to be there," adds Jennifer.
The Area 36 Special Olympics serves around 329 athletes in the area and is completely volunteer-based, which is why fundraising events like this Sunday's Polar Plunge are so important.
"Every dollar for our budget is fund raised either through donations or fundraising events. All those dollars that are donated specifically to Area 36 stay in Area 36. Every penny that our program needs is fund raised," says Area 36 Special Olympics Director, Pamela Bahrman.
Bahrman adds that she is thankful for community support with the program.
"Everywhere from our volunteers to our coaches, to attending our events and helping us with our fundraising. Again, we wouldn't have our program without community support,” says Bahrman.
This year’s Polar Plunge will take place at the Up North Lodge in Gwinn on Sunday, March 17, 2019. Registration will begin at 9 a.m., with the parade of costumes at 10:15 a.m. and the actual plunge at 10:30 a.m.