Special Olympics Team Farmington celebrates 28 years

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published February 6, 2018

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Special Olympics Team Farmington is going stronger than ever after 28 years of helping people with disabilities learn valuable life skills and develop friendships through sports.

Team Farmington member Stacie Cassar, 42, of Walled Lake, knows that almost more than anyone. She joined the organization when she was an eighth-grader at East Middle School.

Cassar became a member of Team Farmington after hearing about the opportunity from coaches — and she hasn’t looked back.

“I like it. I like the sports and I have a lot of friends,” said Cassar, who participates in a variety of sports, including track, skiing, basketball and soccer.

Team Farmington Director Pam Brooks, who began as a volunteer over 15 years ago, said that two Farmington Public Schools teachers started the team 20 years ago.

“They learn how to play the sports, and it teaches them camaraderie,” Brooks said of the athletes, adding that they develop friendships and their families become close too. “Some of the athletes we have are in their 40s — they’ve known each other since middle school. It is pretty impressive.”

Special Olympics Team Farmington provides sports programs for people with disabilities in Farmington and Farmington Hills. 

Team Farmington is a local branch of Special Olympics Oakland County, a nonprofit organization formed in 1990, according to a press release.

Team Farmington provides practices, training and competitions for athletes, and there is no age limit, according to the release. 

Each sport offers at least eight weeks of training prior to competition at local, regional and state levels. Team Farmington offers many sports, including basketball, snowboarding, downhill skiing, bowling, poly-hockey, soccer, softball, swimming, track and field, and golf, the release states. Team Farmington also hosts local competitions and is involved in local invitational tournaments. Team Farmington hosts softball invitational tournaments for teams throughout the state every year. 

Brooks said she began as a volunteer many years ago, and what have always been constant are the friendship skills the athletes develop.

“They are kind towards one another,” she said, adding that they learn to become very good at sports.

Ted Stern, also a Team Farmington director, participated in a program about 30 years ago that predated Team Farmington: the South Oakland Skills Center. 

The sports program was run out of Farmington High School.

Eventually, when students graduated from Visions Unlimited — a post-secondary educational program for young adults ages 18-26, according to www.farmington.k12.mi.us — Stern said, they still wanted to participate in sports, but that was not financially possible at first.

“At age 26 there was no funding for them, so we came together in about 1990/91,” he said, adding that the South Oakland Skills Center joined forces with the adults who graduated from Visions Unlimited to create Team Farmington. “All their athletes started graduating, and they formed their own group.”

Stern said that the group has grown to over 200 athletes.

“(Team Farmington) is now the largest (such) program in the state of Michigan, and we raise and spend the most money,” Stern said, adding that while the group keeps growing, its needs grow too.  

The group needs volunteers as more athletes join.

An Oakland County Polar Plunge fundraiser will be held 8-9 a.m. Feb. 10 at Rochester Mills Brewing Co., 400 Water St. in Rochester. The event, with some proceeds benefiting Team Farmington, will feature a silent auction.

A Team Farmington fundraiser bowl-a-thon is set for 10 a.m. April 21 at Drakeshire Lanes,  35000 Grand River Ave. in Farmington. The event will also feature a silent auction.

“We are always looking for bowlers … or people to donate (items for the) silent auction,” Brooks said.

According to a press release, all money raised by Team Farmington is used to support the program. Monetary donations and local fundraisers help with sports competitions at the local and state levels.

The Special Olympics, a global movement, was created by the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation in 1968.

For more information or to join Team Farmington, contact Brooks at (248) 426-2894 or visit www.somi.org and type in (Oakland) Area 15.