The Stars, a Special Olympics soccer team made up of players from Ottawa and Allegan counties, will represent the Mitten at the USA games from June 14-21. The games will take place at the University of Princeton’s campus.
“It’s very exciting,” said Grand Haven resident Lyndsey Yonker, one of the squad’s coaches. “For a lot of these young adults, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. For them to be able to fly on a private jet, is quite an experience. Just to be able to meet athletes from all over the country is going to be pretty incredible. They truly will make lifelong friends there.”
On top of playing soccer, the team will enjoy a dinner cruise, hangout in the event’s Olympic Village, tour New York, take in a minor league baseball game and participate in an opening ceremony at the Prudential Center — the home of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
“We don’t have much downtime,” said coach Sandy Marlink, smiling.
Yonker is not alone in representing the Tri-Cities. The team also has connections via players Katie Cole (Grand Haven), Brandon Bucek (Grand Haven), Jacob Brye (Grand Haven) and Ashley Mokma (Ferrysburg).
The Stars qualified for the event by winning its division in the Michigan Special Olympics this past October, an experience Mokma called “awesome.”
Yonker said the Stars’ success comes in large part from a familiarity with one another.
Read more of this story in today's print edition or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.