HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Twelve athletes -- from Oahu, Maui and the Big Island -- are representing Hawaii on the mainland in an eight-day Special Olympics event in New Jersey. The team, known as Hui O Hawaii, will be among more than 3,500 Special Olympics athletes from around the country who will compete in 16 sports before tens of thousands of spectators and volunteers.
"Many of our athletes have trained and competed with Special Olympics Hawaii for more than a decade, and one of the amazing opportunities which our organization is able to provide is the once in a lifetime opportunity not just to represent their community, but our state at a national level," said Nancy Bottelo, Special Olympics Hawaii president and CEO.
The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games seeks to promote ideals of acceptance and inclusion through highlighting abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities.
The following athletes are competing in this year's event:
Raymattew Akaka from Waianae will represent Hui O Hawaii in track and field. Akaka has
participated in Special Olympics for nine years and has also played for the Nanakuli High School
Honolulu resident Marcelino Galdones will compete in bocce. A six-year Special Olympics Hawaii participant, Galdones also participates in Special Olympics' Toastmasters and Self-Advocacy Advisory Council.
An 11-year veteran of Special Olympics Hawaii, Honolulu resident Lesley Ann Hamm will
represent Hawaii in bocce. Hamm also competes with Special Olympics in bowling, softball and
track and field.
Nicole Inouye will represent Hawaii in swimming. A Kaneohe resident, Inouye has competed with Special Olympics Hawaii for more than five years. With Special Olympics she has received the tools to develop relationships and overcome obstacles.
Honolulu resident Shannon Nakamoto will compete in the 2014 USA Games in bocce. An 11-year veteran of Special Olympics Hawaii's program, Nakamoto has represented Hawaii and the United States before when she competed in the 2005 Winter Special Olympics games in Nagano, Japan where she brought home gold, silver and bronze medals.
Reyse Sakima from Honolulu will compete in track and field. Sakima has participated in Special
Olympics with the Ducks delegation for more than eight years, enjoying the camaraderie and
friendship of his teammates and participating in activities such as Tip a Cop and Cop on Top.
After participating in Special Olympics Hawai'i for more than 10 years, Honolulu athlete Blane
Sardinha will represent the state in bocce. Sardinha also competes in swimming, basketball, bocce and bowling.
Michelle Shanahan will compete at the USA Games in swimming. A resident of Honolulu,
Shanahan has participated in Special Olympics Hawai'i for more than 12 years.
Big Island athletes
Kalani Gonsalves will represent Hui O Hawaii in track and field A resident of Hilo, Gonsalves has competed with Special Olympics Hawaii for 12 years. Thanks to his involvement with Special
Olympics he has been able to apply the lessons he learned on the field to hold employment with the Arc of Hilo and participate with hula halau, Halau O Kekuhi.
Daylan Toribio is a six-year Special Olympics athlete, who will represent the state in track and field. A resident of Kurtistown, Toribio is a six-year Special Olympics participant.
Nikilani Rojas will represent Hawaii and the community of Makawao in New Jersey where she will compete in swimming. Participating in Special Olympics for 11 years has equipped Rojas with the tools to hold a job at the Haliimaile General Store where she works as a prep cook.
Fae Torres from Kahului will compete in swimming at this year's USA Games. Torres has
participated in Special Olympics for a whopping 40 years, and has earned numerous medals
competing in bowling, swimming and bocce. In 2005, Torres was recognized with the prestigious Athlete of the Year award for the island of Maui.
The cost to send one athlete to the USA National Games --which runs through June 21 -- is more than $2,500, according to Special Olympics Hawaii. Those who would like to donate can go to http://www.specialolympicshawaii.org/