East Hartford Special Olympics night at the Connecticut Whale

By Frances Taylor
East Hartford - posted Thu., Feb. 3, 2011
Christine Aparo, Eddie Werth, Valerie Nettleton, Nino Pettinato, Joe Aparo and Mike LaFreriere are coaches for the East Hartford Special Olympics teams. The group recently held an East Hartford Special Olympics Night. Photo by Frances Taylor.
Christine Aparo, Eddie Werth, Valerie Nettleton, Nino Pettinato, Joe Aparo and Mike LaFreriere are coaches for the East Hartford Special Olympics teams. The group recently held an East Hartford Special Olympics Night. Photo by Frances Taylor.

Special Olympians took the night off from their own games to enjoy a hockey game at the XL Center Friday night in Hartford.  The Connecticut Whale met the Manchester Monarchs of Vermont in a close game.
The event was just one of many throughout the year for members of the East Hartford Special Olympics. Swimming, bowling, track and field and basketball teams practice weekly for annual competitions, where East Hartford area members often win gold medals.  
Eddie Werth, whose 12-year-old son, Tyler, is on the swimming and bowling teams, said Special Olympics builds self esteem. “He’s made a lot of new friends through all these activities, which in turn really helps build self esteem,” he said.
Werth has coached East Hartford basketball, swimming and bowling teams for the past three years. “It’s been very rewarding. After work, it really takes the stress out of your day.’’
Special Olympics Connecticut provides year-round sports programs and Olympic-style competition for children and adults who have physical or developmental disabilities.  
The teams are preparing for the Winter Games, which will be held in March. East Hartford has about 40 team members that range in age from 11 to 60. The basketball teams practice at East Hartford High, and the bowling teams practice at AMF Silver Lanes.
 “Our Bobcats and All-Stars team won their overall divisions last year,’’ said Christine Aparo,  head coach for East Hartford’s  programs. “We hope to regain the title this year.’’
Aparo, 28, began working as a Special Olympics volunteer in high school, as a community service project over a decade ago.
“It brings a sense of joy and accomplishment.  I just really enjoyed it, and I just continued on, and I got my sister involved,’’ Aparo said. Her sister, Cara Hinckley, now 26, plays on the bowling and basketball teams. Her husband and younger brother are also team coaches.
East Hartford Night at the Connecticut Whale was the group’s first fund raiser of the year, Aparo said.  About 200 tickets were sold, which raised about $1,000. The Connecticut Whale lost to the Manchester Monarchs 2-4.


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