Special Stars is observing its 15-year anniversary in 2019. It was first formed in Highlands County and has now grown to include Hardee, Okeechobee and southern Polk counties. Currently, several hundred adults and children are participants in this beneficial program.
Special STARS expanded into Okeechobee County this year by offering a track and field competition in the fall for approximately 90 children and adults. Athletes are registering and participating in sports and recreational activities offered by the program.
There are more than 14 sports and eight recreational activities provided throughout the year in Highlands County. Sports include horseshoes, bocce, shuffleboard, track and field, cycling, softball, tennis, equestrian, swimming, bowling, basketball, cheerleading, volleyball and kickball. Recreational events include parties, dances, ball games, talent show and theater shows.
In Hardee County, 50 athletes enjoyed bowling and participating with Highlands County athletes in other sports and events. Although Highlands has not been able to bowl because of the bowling alley being destroyed, a Bowling Fun Day is being planned out of town for athletes this summer.
Special STARS coordinates an equestrian program in May with Heartland Horses & Equine Activities and Learning, Inc. Riders train on horseback before being judged during a horse show to win awards.
The Special STARS Softball Classic raises money for the program and provides an opportunity for special athletes to play softball along with partners in the community.
School students participated in the Highlands County School District Track & Field event in the spring.
There are approximately 180 students competing in Special STARS. Some children also participated in the other sports and recreational programs offered throughout the year