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Bethpage will host qualifying event for Special Olympics

About 600 athletes will compete Saturday in Spring Games North of the Special Olympics at Bethpage High School.

The competition is for the Long Island region of Special Olympics New York and is a qualifying event for the state Special Olympics, said Jennifer Cantone, director of development for the Long Island region. Top athletes can eventually go to the national and world games.

The Special Olympics is a competition for people with intellectual disabilities and cognitive delays.

“They’re there to show all of the hard work they’ve done and it gives them a sense of accomplishment to participate in these events,” she said.

Saturday’s event begins with an opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. The games are free and open to the public. They’re expected to last until about 3 p.m.

The Long Island event has been held for more than 40 years and rotates every few years, Cantone said. This is the first of two years at Bethpage.

“They have great facilities, and we have the support of the [Bethpage Union Free] school district and the Town of Oyster Bay,” she said.

Outside, there will be track and field and tennis competition, and inside the school will be swimming and powerlifting, she said.

“Special Olympics are an opportunity to showcase the talents and achievements of the participants, while also breaking down social barriers and stereotypes,” town Supervisor Joseph Saladino — who will deliver remarks welcoming the athletes — said in a statement.

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