This summer, Animal Fire Theatre presents William Shakespeare's THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA. Shakespeare fans know that this comedy of love and friendship lost and found again is a true time capsule of its age and of sixteenth century ideas about how love and relationships should work. Today, some of these ideas have been discarded and others have been allowed to change form and linger. Animal Fire chose this comedy as their followup to Hamlet and Julius Caesar because it engages with issues far more present our modern world with a joviality guaranteed to please. Staged with a sharp wit and packed to the brim with comic delights, the show features some of Olympia’s best talent, music and even “a bit with a dog”.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona runs July 24 – August 10th. During the first weekend, you will find the show at Animal Fire's old home of Priest Point Park, July 24th – 26th at 7 pm and July 27th at 2 pm. The show goes on tour during its second weekend, with two 7 pm stops on July 31st and August 1st at the Tumwater Farmer's Market, at the southwest corner of Capitol Boulevard and Israel Road, plus a 2 pm matinee at the Griswold Building in downtown Olympia, 310 4th Ave E. The troupe returns to Priest Point Park for closing weekend, with 7 pm shows August 7th, and 8th and 2 pm matinees on August 9th and10th. All shows are free to the public and guests are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets.Google Plus One Facebook Like
By Katie Doolittle
Loni Smith is a true Renaissance man with deep roots in the Lacey-Olympia community. Many locals know him as Mr. Smith, the caring and committed teacher who led them through physics, chemistry, or calculus at River Ridge High School. Others—specifically, barbecue enthusiasts—know him as the cooking genius behind Smitty’s Bar-B-Grill.
Smith started making his own pickles as a complement to his main dishes. Now, he’s got repeat customers begging him for large take-home orders. “I will sell pickles hand over fist,” Smith laughs. “That’s been the biggest surprise.”
Smith’s astonishment probably derives from his general attitude about cooking for the public. “I find it strange that people pay me for food because it’s just what I love to do,” he says. Strange or not, Smith could easily have a bustling business on his hands. His food is marvelous and his prices reasonable. But he only cooks professionally during the summer, and he tries to balance his market days and catering gigs with plenty of relaxation time. That’s especially important this year, as Smith explains, “My daughter is on her way off to college so I don’t want to take on too much.”
It’s no wonder that Smith gets excellent word-of-mouth referrals. Though barbecue is his passion, his culinary skills are varied. He makes everything from pulled pork cooked low and slow to toothsome treats for a vegan birthday party. His signature side dishes have me drooling just thinking about them… especially the “Smitty Beans” in their rich, bacon-studded sauce.
Smith describes grilling as “a more scientific endeavor than teaching,” and he’s certainly in a position to know. From September through June, he submerses himself fully in his job at River Ridge High School. Student athletes benefit from his coaching of boys’ soccer and golf. Colleagues respect his knowledge, work ethic, and caring demeanor. And students appreciate his total commitment to their learning and well-being.
He’s the kind of teacher who makes an impact long after a final exam. River Ridge alumna Kindra McDougall recalls, “He knew exactly how to control the [class] environment and engage every individual.” Jordan Cobb, class of 2010, concurs. She says, “He taught in a way that was interesting, fun, often funny, and energetic, which helped me stay motivated to learn and understand the material.” She describes Smith as someone who “genuinely cared about helping them grow into awesome adults.”
Smith’s competence and popularity were highly evident at graduation this past June, where he wowed the crowd as the class of 2014’s student-elected speaker. The graduates broke into spontaneous cheers on Smith’s behalf, chanting his name and nearly moving him to tears.
Co-worker Angela Farley sums it up: “He’s such a valuable asset to our building: teacher, coach, friend, parent, district alum.”
Intriguingly, this last bit has had a huge influence on Smith’s cooking style. Growing up in North Thurston Public Schools, Smith’s social network was quite diverse. Many of his friends came from military families, and others had first-generation immigrant parents. Eating at one another’s homes was a culinary experience Smith still appreciates to this day. Enthusiastically, he recalls the homemade sauerkraut and kimchi he encountered as an adolescent, describing how the flavor of a vegetable changes and sweetens in the pickling process.
“I’ve enjoyed cooking since I was a young kid,” says Smith. “As a Boy Scout I realized I liked cooking over an open flame… and I was pretty good at it.” His focus on barbecue began around age 18, and Smith describes his learning process as “burning and overcooking a bunch of stuff before I started to get it right.” It’s a process he recommends wholeheartedly for any budding barbecuer. “Experiment. Don’t be afraid to burn food. Don’t be afraid if it tastes bad. Don’t be afraid to fail.”
Does that advice come from Smitty the grill master, or Mr. Smith the teacher? Actually, it’s nearly impossible to separate these facets of Smith’s personality—a fact he readily recognizes. “There is a definite science [to barbecue],” he says. He goes on to describe how he develops various flavors and techniques using observation, measurement, and testing. It’s the classic scientific method at work in the kitchen. Smith says the process “is much like that in a science experiment, but at the same time it’s very natural and holistic.”
There is, of course, one important distinction: I’ve never wanted to eat the results of a high school chemistry or physics lab. But you can bet I’ll be in line at Smitty’s Bar-B-Grill this summer, waiting to taste the fabulous results of his latest culinary experiment.
Smitty’s Bar-B-Grill has been a food vendor at the Lacey Community Market for the past four years. (The Lacey Community Market runs once a month on July 12, August 9 and September 13, this year.) Do yourself a favor: come for the barbecue. Stay for the pickles.
By Libby Kamrowski
The door to Grandpa’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream Parlor is secretly a time portal.
One minute you’re on Fourth Avenue in 2014 downtown Olympia, and the next you’re blasted to Olympia of the 1950s. Black and white checkered floor. A long counter with scarlet red barstools. Young “soda jerks” working side by side Larry and Drue Brown, otherwise known as Grandpa and Grandma. A family-run business for a family-welcome atmosphere, Grandpa’s Ice Cream is the surest destination to get your kids tasty treats.
The idea for the shop was sparked by a chance encounter. “I was painting the building, and a fellow came by Fourth Avenue and stopped in the middle of traffic. ‘Hey – can you tell me if there is a decent ice cream place in this city?’” Larry Brown said. “So it made me think- this would be a great place for that.” The shop took a year to complete, and even longer to generate the flow of customers. But now the shop is close to selling its seventy thousandth ice cream cone in its third year of business.
Few know that in the 1950s, there used to be an ice cream parlor by the name of Kress Ice Cream. A photograph of this historical memory of Olympia can be found inside Grandpa’s, which modeled its own interior as closely as possible to Kress’s. The next time you stop by for a scoop, take a look among the framed historic pictures and you may find it.
The Browns built the shop on the foundation of family. “We wanted to make it family friendly. We wanted it to work for everyone, but especially for when the family comes down and brings their kids downtown in a place to enjoy,” Larry Brown said. The Browns are continually coming up with ways to help out young patrons- they are even expanding the menu board to feature pictures of special ice cream concoctions to meet customer demands.
But this surely isn’t the only way that the Browns have helped out the youth. In fact, the success of the shop directly benefits the young soda jerks of Grandpa’s. The profits of the store help the young workers pay for college educations. The Browns continually express their amazement with how many young people are working to achieve higher level educations, and receive stacks of resumes.
Soda jerk Belana Anderson, advocate of the cotton candy soft serve and a student of Saint Martin’s University’s class of 2018, says “He opened the shop to hire employees for the purpose to help them make money. For school, or missions. Grandpa and Grandma don’t take any of the profit,” Anderson said. “They are some of the sweetest people, and both very hard working.” Anderson emphasized the generosity of the contributions of the Browns and to their genuinely positive relationships with the staff.
The owners of Grandpa’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream Parlor are truly as sweet as the treats that they serve.
This summer, customers can expect something new from Grandpa’s in the form of refreshing local fruit. In the near future, fresh flavored lemonades will be available. But the innovation does not stop there. “We’re thinking of a promotion, ‘Until the Cows Come Home.’ It is different kinds of ice cream sodas, which we plan on introducing probably by the first of August,” said soda jerk Michael Kent.
The pre-existing products on the menu are suitable for all tastes. Two dozen flavors of soft serve are advertised on a banner located on the back wall, for the nearly unbeatable price of $1.25 per cone. Hand scooped Olympic Mountain Ice Cream (locally made) is also available, as are sundaes with plentiful toppings to choose from. They’ve thought of everything, as shakes and malts are made from the hand-scooped ice cream and Torani flavors.
For those with creative pallets, Italian sodas are made to order for $2.99, and ice cream sodas for $3.99. Visit the glass case for chocolate confections and penny candy for additional tasty joy. Anywhere you look in the store, you’ll find something else you want to eat.
You may have heard about the waffle cones, or smelled them as you walked past the shop. Grandpa’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream Shop makes the cones on site, and from personal experience, they are worth the hype. Drue Brown scooped me up a Pistachio Cherry Chocolate Chip in a waffle cone while I was in, and I melted for the cone faster than the ice cream did. If gold were edible, it would taste like the waffle cones that Grandpa’s produces. “People come from all over the area to follow that scent. We sell our ice cream in waffle cones as fast as we can make them,” Larry Brown said.
The next time you’re at Percival Landing or visiting the fountain, be it by yourself or with your family in tow, Grandpa’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream Parlor will be right around the corner to serve you up a scoop of sugary throwback.
208 – 4th Avenue West in Olympia
Monday through Thursday – 12:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday – 12:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sunday – closed
In September 2013, Consumer Reports published a guide titled “Your safer-surgery survival guide.” The article included ratings of surgery centers in Washington State. Providence Centralia Hospital received the third highest rating, with a “best” score, right behind Overlake Hospital in Bellevue.
“Our staff at the Washington Orthopaedic Center is proud to be part of the highly recognized care provided at Providence Centralia,” said Maretta Boes, patient services representative at Washington Orthopaedic Center.
You’ll find the center a short 20-minute drive south on I-5 in Centralia, right off the highway. The group of four orthopedic surgeons and four physician assistants serve a large region, covering Thurston, Grays Harbor and Lewis counties.
When you step into the lobby of Washington Orthopaedic Center you know you’re in a special place. One of the first things you see is a large, living tree, bent and twisted and beautiful, but braced to a straight stick. “The traditional symbol of orthopaedics is the bent tree that has been braced to make it grow straight. We use this symbol throughout our building,” said Boes. Not only is there a living tree in the lobby, but the tree is painted on walls and is on their letterhead.
“The Greek roots of the word ‘orthopaedics’ are ortho (straight) and pais (child). Early orthopaedists often used braces or other forms of treatment to make the child ‘straight’’, Boes explained.
The waiting room features art by local artists, rotating every sixty days, creating a welcoming environment. The receptionists are warm, as well. Continue walking through the state of the art facility and you’ll pass numerous plaques and awards from local sports teams that have been sponsored by Washington Orthopaedics. Along with supporting local teams, Washington Orthopaedics is also the official medical provider for the US Ski & Snowboarding teams.
The practice started in 1973, founded by Dr. Larry Hull, and has been at their present location on Cooks Hill Road for 25 years this July. Due to growth in the practice, the building has seen a number of renovations. Currently they are installing new digital imaging equipment. They also have open extremity Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which is helpful for patients that experience claustrophobia in traditional MRIs. MRIs provide detailed information about tendons, ligaments, muscle, and bone marrow that standard x-rays cannot. It is particularly useful for looking at knees, shoulders, wrists, ankles, and other small joints.
Washington Orthopaedic Center patients also benefit from the latest technology in tele-radiology. This is where the image is sent electronically to specialists that read results with expert accuracy. Today’s imaging technology has virtually eliminated the need for invasive exploratory surgeries.
Other services provided at the center include sports medicine, total joint replacement, hand surgery, minimally invasive procedures, fracture and trauma surgery and ImPACT testing for concussion.
In July, Dr. Michael Dujela will join the team. He is a nationally recognized expert in foot and ankle surgery who has trained with some of the world’s leading orthopaedic surgeons. There are less than five surgeons, in the nation, who have completed training similar to Dujela.
Many people would think that appointments with highly-trained providers like Dujela would take months to get, but that is not the case at Washington Orthopaedic Center. “We’ve made it a huge priority over the last few years to improve our scheduling times,” said Boes referencing the quick scheduling. “We want patients who are in pain or are waiting to return to work to get the care they need and get on with their lives.”
Boes notes that many first time visitors are surprised by the size of the facility, the number of doctors, the proximity to Providence right next door, as well as the lower cost of many of their services. Washington Orthopaedics accepts nearly all insurance plans, including Group Health.
Scheduling appointments is a breeze. A quick phone call (360.736.2889) to Washington Orthopaedics and you will likely be seen within 24 hours. A commitment to easy, rapid scheduling is a hallmark of the practice.
Washington Orthopaedic Center is located at 1900 Cooks Hill Road and can be reached at 360.736.2889 or appointments can be made at www.waortho.com.
By Katie Doolittle
Home canning: it’s a chance to preserve the season’s bounty. It’s also an excellent option for people wanting more control over their pantry or pocketbook. Whenever I slather my morning toast with homemade blackberry jam, I get a bit of self-satisfaction as extra sweetener. Picking those berries cost nothing more than effort, and my sugar-free recipe tastes marvelous.
I am not alone in my fondness for food preservation. “I think there’s a fun nostalgia about the process of canning and having a pantry filled with the fruits of your own labor.” So says Leanne Willard, Director of the Bayview School of Cooking. She acknowledges that some people may be intimidated by the idea and mentions that “canning jam is a wonderful way to get in to the whole thing.”
Happily, multiple upcoming classes offer guidance to novice food preservers in the Olympia area.
Bayview School of Cooking will offer “Jam Session” on Wednesday, July 9th, from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. The cost is $45, and space is limited to 25 people. To register, call 360-754-1448.
Though Bayview has separate programming for kids, teenagers (and sometimes younger children) often come to regular programming. Usually, teens come with someone older but they are perfectly welcome to come alone. If you have any questions about your eligibility, just ask when you call to register.
Faye Mueller is the instructor for “Jam Session,” a demonstration-style class that will cover two jam recipes, a chutney, and a jam-filled gluten-free breakfast bar. Participants get to take home some jam that Mueller makes for her company, Sweet Pea’s Specialties. Mueller jokes that her business came into being because she’d already gifted her friends and family with a gargantuan surplus of jam. She says, “I started making jam at age 19 and I’m 57 now. There’s been a lot of jam between then and now!”
In addition to jam-making, Mueller has plenty of experience with food and cooking. For over a decade, she ran the Seward Park PCC Deli. Currently, she assists Joy Templeton at Once Upon a Thyme with recipe development and monthly cooking classes. Mueller described the connection: “We are long time cooking buddies and share a similar whole food style.”
When I asked Mueller why someone should consider taking her class, she explained, “Canning as a means of food preservation is an old art. And these days, kind of a lost art. It is not difficult to do and is very rewarding. If the power goes out, your canned goods in the pantry are going to be just fine. You’ll have a great start to your disaster kit as well as always having a lovely homemade gift on hand.”
Valarie Burson, another local instructor, agrees. “A class on food preservation gives immediate results and instills a degree of confidence and success in the moment.” She believes that this confidence is key for eliminating concerns over germs or botulism. She goes on to say, “Food preservation closes the loop between the local food and farm connection. In the Pacific Northwest our growing seasons are limited, yet bountiful at their peak. We can take advantage of peak production through preservation practices.”
In terms of seizing opportunity and eliminating waste, canning falls right in line with the Olympia Food Co-Op’s values. It’s no wonder that the co-op’s summer class line-up will feature several courses on food preservation. Burson explains that the co-op’s educational program focuses on “cooking basics, sustainable living, and health/wellness. Additionally, there is instruction about developing food cooperatives, labor movements, and food politics.” Co-op classes are purely nonprofit, taught by qualified volunteers. The budget-friendly $5 registration fee makes each class widely accessible.
In August, Burson will run two Saturday sessions through the Co-Op. Both will focus on food preservation. On August 9 from noon to 2:30 p.m., she’ll lead a group through jam-making. On August 16 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., her students will be pickling beets. Both classes will be held at the GRuB Farmhouse.
Burson’s classes are hands-on; therefore, enrollment for each is limited to 15. She would welcome youth to either class. If you are old enough to handle a knife and avoid getting burned, you are old enough for canning and pickling, according to Burson.
Burson is a nutritional therapist – a certification that seemed natural given her “long term love of food, nutrition, and cooking.” She says, “My interests lie in educating people about food choices, cooking, and shopping.” She’s also passionate about “transitioning people to better nutrition.”
When we spoke, Burson offered the following advice: “Don’t fear the kitchen. Never miss an opportunity to add to your larder. Share your abundance.”
These are powerful reasons, indeed, to consider taking a canning class this summer!
Spend your 4th of July with Northern!
Special thanks to Chris Hamilton for these wonderful photos taken from Boston Harbor during the July 3rd fireworks display. This neighborhood traditions draws local residents for live music and a BBQ at the Marina and the spectacular fireworks show in the harbor. The fireworks are funded entirely by donations to the Boston Harbor Association.
There is a charge to enter this oasis ($6 for adults; $4 over age 65). Public guided tours are available on some days.
For a special experience, attend a Chado tea demonstration in the beautiful tea house. There is a minimal fee to participate in this cerermony, but you can view the demonstration at no charge.
The Gardens have variable hours, depending on the season and weather. For current information, check their website, which is attached to the Seattle Parks listings: www.seattle.gov/parks/parkspaces/gardens.htm
These lovely photos are of the Washington Park Arboretum.
The Arboretum was a suggested “side trip”
on our Madison Park trip. Rick was adventuresome… he got off the bus at Lake Washington Blvd and Madison Street to walk through the Arboretum and also the Japanese Gardens (which will be featured on the next post)
Thank you, Rick, for sharing these photos!
Art Rangno has posted a pdf of the 10th edition his popular Guide to the Sky Poster for mass consumption. Printed copies of these beautiful posters, published between 1987 and 2005 are no longer available so this is your chance to enjoy Art's beautiful photographs of clouds and his clear, succinct, and poetic descriptions of the clouds, how they form, and what they mean weatherwise.
Art is a meteorologist formerly in airborne cloud studies at the University of Washington and now lives in Arizona where he has an unobstructed view of the western sky and posts fabulous photographs of the clouds, meteorological news, and fun facts for skywatchers on his website Cloud-Maven.com
It was Art's poster, taped to a closet door, that sparked my interest in clouds in 2008. And, because there are so darn many of them, it has taken me longer than I had planned to write my book about them. I am making progress. Stay tuned!
Happy 4th of July! Like many of you, I’m busily making potato salad and slicing a huge watermelon this morning in preparation for afternoon festivities. All we need is apple pie for an All-American celebration. And, like many of you, our family’s weekend includes three days of fun to enjoy, celebrate, and relax. Luckily there are plenty of happenings around Thurston County to keep us busy and gorgeous weather for the foreseeable future. Gather with friends, bask in the sun, and celebrate the freedom we all enjoy every day.
Submit an event for our calendar here.
ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.
Thursday, July 3rd, doors at 9pm
Boris a.k.a. The Keys, a French-born & raised but now Toronto-based singer-songwriter playing somewhat Edgy Pop & Folk’n'Roll music. He’ll be playing a solo West Coast Summer Tour to promote the upcoming release of his 8th album “You Can’t Beat Me If I’m Not Playing”
Submitted by Rebuilding Together Thurston County
We would like to share great news of our most recent Rebuilding Together Thurston County Project. On April 16, 118 student volunteers along with staff members from Northwest Christian High School in Lacey, walked around the corner from their school to make improvements to Candlewood Manor, a neighboring low-income mobile home park, to provide a day service to the community.
In consideration of the larger group of volunteers, Christina McNair from NWCHS divided the students into 11 teams, each headed by an efficient school staff member and they arrived at the park early that morning. Raechel Kilcup, Susan Newman, Shirley Jones, Deb Parent, Brandy Farnsworth, Theresa Becker and Lane Sater were on hand from RTTC to provide coordination, along with several of their family members and friends. Pam Folsom with SCJ Alliance and her daughter Nicole were also on site to provide communication, first-aid and logistics services. Kim O’Hara from NWCHS was on-site to photograph the event.
Armed with maps of each home site provided by SCJ Alliance and tools and equipment provided by the Olympia Downtown Association, the volunteers worked on much needed home and yard improvements for a large number of elderly and disabled homeowners. They pulled debris from roofs, cleaned gutters, painted, washed homes, weeded flower beds, repaired porches, repaired fences, installed new gutters, washed and repaired decks and raked lawns.
The volunteers also trimmed bushes and trees. Chris Gillaspie of Gillaspie’s Tree Service in Centralia was on hand to trim some of the larger vegetation and
provide pruning counsel. Ted and Shirley Jones of T&S Cleaning provided much needed pressure washing and Jim Simmons of Mr. Electric installed a new light and made panel repairs on a home in serious need of electrical improvements.
In one day, the volunteer’s hard work resulted in improvements in 23 homes, to the extent that one owner exclaimed, “I don’t recognize the place!” The teams efficiency also allowed them to provide improvements to the community park and clubhouse, touching the lives of over 100 home owners residing in the neighborhood. “Amazing!”, “They were so well mannered!”, and “What can we do for the students besides give our thanks?” were among many positive exclamations from the recipients.
Reflecting on the day’s work, Dr. Terry Ketchum, the school principal and team leader had this to say about the volunteers, “Several of our students were commenting on the value they saw in what they were doing – helping those who had difficulty helping themselves..” Park Manager Donna Hayward commented that the volunteers worked very hard and that residents were extremely pleased with the outcome. Rebuilding Together Thurston County thanks all involved in this successful project that affected so many people!
Submitted by Saint Martin’s University
Children can cross the Pacific on an imaginary adventure this summer and learn about living in another country – free –at the Saint Martin’s University Chinese Language and Culture Camp for kids. The camp will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. July 21-July 23 on the second floor of the University’s Harned Hall, 5000 Abbey Way SE, Lacey.
Designed for children 5-12, the camp will have a daily mixture of Chinese language, writing and cultural activities, including constructing dragon masks and lanterns, practicing some tai chi moves, learning Chinese hand-counting and many more. Office staff members will lead the camp in collaboration with visiting students from Saint Martin’s sister school, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, says Marco Tullock, director of international programs and development for the University’s Office of International Programs and Development.
“We are very happy to present this exciting cultural immersion camp free-of-charge to kids in the local community. It is a great opportunity for children to learn about the Chinese language and culture through interaction with Chinese students at Saint Martin’s University,” Tullock says.
The camp is offered to the community free-of-charge by Saint Martin’s. However, children must be registered by a parent or legal guardian, and parents are asked to commit to bringing their child or children all three days. “Parents are welcome to stay onsite, if desired,” Tullock says. Registration can be completed by online, by clicking here. Registration also can be done by telephone. Parents who register by calling will need to sign and return a printed permission form and liability waiver. To register by phone, or for questions, please call Brenda Mueller, summer program assistant, 360-438-4504.
By Tom Rohrer
“We had about nine players,” said Barker, a coordinator and planner for Thurston County Special Olympics. “It just wasn’t well known then.”
Twenty years later, the program has an enrollment of around 90 individuals, ranging in age from age eight to 65.
One of eight sports within Thurston County Special Olympics, softball is the most popular activity according to Barker. Up to 10 players can be on the field on a time and the game is played outdoors, as opposed to sports such as basketball and weightlifting. Seeing the participation and interest in the sport grow over two decades has been special for Barker.
“It’s big to my athletes that they have a place to compete, and I know it makes them feel good,” Barker said. “They just enjoy it.”
In late July, the local athletes will welcome competitors from across Washington State for the annual Southwest Region Softball Tournament. The tournament, which will be held on Saturday, July 26 at LBA Park and Stevens Field, will feature around 100-120 local athletes along with 500-600 out-of-town competitors.
“We have athletes coming in from Tacoma, Vancouver, Grays Harbor, all over,” said Barker, who coaches a team within the TCSO softball program. “It’s great because a lot of athletes are beginning to form friendships with each other because of tournaments in the past.”
The tournament format will be similar to any Special Olympics event.
“We will have opening ceremonies, athletes giving out our official athlete’s oath and one athlete will be singing the national anthem,” said Barker. “After the games are over, there will be awards, medals for first second and third place in each divisions. It’s a tremendous day for everyone involved.”
Teams that win their division will move on to the Washington State Special Olympics Softball Tournament in August, held in Everett and hosted by Boeing. Barker has coached a team to the state tournament the last five years, an incredible feat that has led to even more incredible experiences.
“It’s a tournament that requires a stay overnight. There’s an athlete’s dinner and an athlete’s dance,” said Barker. “The competition is very high. The athletes, they really respond to that.”
The teams within the local softball program vary in age and skill level. Barker and the collection of Special Olympics volunteers make it their mission to move athletes up to higher skill levels by teaching them the fundamentals of the game in tightly structured practices.
“As any coach would tell you, seeing that improvement is why you’re coaching,” Barker noted. “We want the kids to have more fun playing, and that happens by them learning the correct fundamentals and how to play the right way.”
Barker became involved with Thurston County Special Olympics through his 35-year-old son Dustin, an athlete within the program. For years, Barker has been coach and father to Dustin, though at times, he prefers that other coaches instruct his son.
“We’re around each other a lot, so it’s good for both of us to have some other coaching now and then,” Barker said. “We still enjoy it just the same.”
There is plenty of enjoyment from the parents of Barker’s athletes. Special Olympics coaches and coordinators are all volunteers, meaning their work is done out of care and passion.
“We have a great support group around here from the parents who are involved,” said Barker. “When you’re around and working with people on a volunteer basis, a bond naturally forms. We’re all there for the same cause, and that’s very unifying.”
Though he receives support from parents and volunteer coaches, Barker needs additional help for the upcoming tournament.
“We need all sorts of help,” he described. “People to keep score, announce awards and just to make this tournament function.”
Barker will likely gain the help he needs, as the Thurston County community has continued to show support for the Special Olympics programs.
“It’s really cool to see people come out just to watch and take in the tournament,” Barker said. “The support means a lot to us but most importantly, it means a lot to the athletes.”
For more information on volunteering for the Thurston County Special Olympics Softball Program, contact Mark Barker at 360-791-0742 or at email@example.com. You can also visit www.sowa.org or follow their Facebook page.