Lake Antoine Classic road race supports local Special Olympics

Athletes from the local Special Olympics took part in bowling during the 2023 summer state games at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. From left are Tim Brigham, Peter Brigham, Pat Bonetti, Daniel Brigham, Matt Marx, Louis Post, Mark Bonetti, Charles White and Richard Fugman. Money raised by the Lake Antoine Classic road races Aug. 26 goes toward competitions.



Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN — Plans are under way for the 46th annual Lake Antoine Classic set for Saturday, Aug. 26.

The event is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Last year they raised $6,000 for the local organization.

McKenna Dallapiazza of Vulcan takes part in a track and field competition in Stephenson.

“My husband (Greg) and I have been on the race committee for 27 years,” Kathy Kulas said.

The event has several options for runners: a 15K run or by bike that travels through the Fumee Lake Natural Area; a 5-mile run around Lake Antoine; and a 2-mile run near Lake Antoine. Prizes will be awarded for the top three overall finishers in each race and among several age groups. There is also will be 5-mile and 2-mile walks that are not competitive.

Cost is $25 for the competitive races and $20 for the walks before Aug. 17. They increase $5 after that date. Those who pre-register at runsignup.com will be guaranteed a T-shirt. Special Olympians can participate for free.

Normally about 100 people take part in the event, but they would like to see the numbers increase. During the start of COVID-19, the number of racers dropped to 46.

Kulas said the 15K is a “good training run for the Iron Mountain Half Marathon.”

Laura Doney, the director of the local Special Olympics, is working to build up numbers of local Special Olympics athletes and programming as well. In Michigan, 24 sports are now offered. Locally athletes participate in snowshoeing, cross country skiing, swimming, track, bowling, bocce, golf and basketball.

Area 38 currently has about 50 athletes who take part, of which five to 10 are from Iron County. Athletes in nearby Wisconsin communities are also welcome to participate.

Money from the Lake Antoine races goes toward different events they attend and downstate competitions, Doney said. Last year they attended the summer games at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant and the winter games in Traverse City.

One of the biggest local sports is basketball, which takes place in February and March. This year they had three teams and about 25 athletes take part, which is down from before COVID.

Bowling also is among the more popular local sports. They usually have two local bowling tournaments for athletes across the U.P. that draw about 150 to 200 bowlers. In the first year since COVID, only about 100 competed. She hopes that number will increase when they host a bowling tournament for the entire Upper Peninsula on Sept. 30 at Recreation Lanes in Iron Mountain. The event is sponsored by BOSS Snowplow, which is paying for bowling, food, and shirts. Special Olympics Michigan is funded by donations from individuals and businesses.

“Bowling and basketball are fan favorites,” Doney said, adding, “We’re trying to do more unified stuff verses the traditional individual things.”

About 10 to 15 local athletes are taking part in bocce at City Park. Before this year, they played bocce in a yard using PVC pipes as rails, so she was very happy the local bocce community has embraced them. There are five athletes golfing and they have a tournament planned for Aug. 26.

She hopes to get a flag football going this fall but need to have certified coaches.

Doney many times finds herself being a coach and taxi driver.

“I pick up people, run the practice, drop them off. Some can’t find rides because they live in group homes,” she said.

They have someone interested in running a gymnastics program, which would be the first in the U.P. A figure skating program is available in Marquette.

“We have to try to get more younger people involved,” she said. The numbers were as high as 60 before COVID, but many older athletes didn’t return for various reasons.

Another obstacle to getting people involved is the paperwork, which can be a daunting for those who have never been with the program. Forms must be completed by a doctor, but then are good for three years. She is willing to assist anyone interested in being involved.

“I’ve been with the organization for 30 years. I hate the paperwork but love the athletes. I’ve been with it for over half my life,” Doney said.

Marguerite Lanthier can be reached at 906-774-3500, ext. 242, or mlanthier@ironmountaindailynews.com.


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