EMU hosts more than 200 Special Olympics Virginia athletes

The tournament at EMU was part of the qualification process to move on to a state tournament.

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Special Olympics Virginia had a new place to compete on Sunday afternoon.

Eastern Mennonite University hosted more than 200 special needs athletes, with the help of EMU student-athlete volunteers.

Rebekah Hoskins, a senior volleyball player who works with Special Olympics Virginia, had the idea of the school hosting the event.

"We were understaffed (at a past event)," Hoskins said. "When I came back and I told my teammates they were like, 'oh! I would have loved to have worked with it!'"

She said she was excited to work with the athletes on her home court.

"They have a passion for the game. They have so much fun" Hoskins said. "And it's a little bit different: They get to feel like college athletes today."

For teams waiting to take the court, the opportunity to play where college athletes compete was not overlooked.

"It's my first time here and it's fun," Troy Evans, a global messenger for Special Olympics Virginia, said.

Evans plays for the Valley Spikers, a volleyball team.

Volunteers were also ready to coach athletes in a collegiate setting.

"It's a whole new experience for me," Morgan Hijjeh, a coach for the Spikers, said. "I've been excited about it ever since i signed up to volunteer."

"It's great to be here at EMU," Jen Kulju, another Spikers coach, said. "And it's right in our backyard."

Athletes kicked and spiked their way through the afternoon, but the new atmosphere did not completely overshadow the feeling of competing with each other.

"Especially with the great team I have and the great coaches," Evans said.