MOUNT CARMEL - When the Mount Carmel Celebration of Special Athletes was first started, 30 athletes competed in the inaugural event.

On Saturday, the 20th anniversary of its founding, more than 300 special athletes marched in the opening ceremony parade at the Silver Bowl ready to participate in various events through the stadium grounds.

"Every one of you who participates are all special athletes, don't let anyone tell you different," said founder Ron Tanney. "It's not Michael Jordan or any other person, it's all of you."

Since its beginning in 1994, the celebration has given those with disabilities the chance to play the morning away, participating in such events as the frisbee throw, long jump, soccer kick and softball toss. Volunteers help out with the event and lead the athletes around to let them participate as many times they want.

'A great event'

During the event's opening ceremony, Northumberland County Commissioners Stephen Bridy and Rick Shoch each made a few remarks.

"I was recently in a major city and was amazed to see everyone with some kind of ear buds or headphones, and I was thankful to be in this community and area where people will reach out a helping hand and come together for such a great event like this," Bridy said.

"It is amazing to see this event grow to welcome more than 300 athletes from multiple counties to Mount Carmel for such a great day. I thank everyone involved for creating such a great event," Shoch said.

Tara Avellino, the organizer for event, thanked the more than 200 volunteers working to plan and put on the event. She then gave special recognition to Tanney and Ray Moncavage for their support of the event.

"It was a small group of volunteers that sat in Ron Tanney's living room and worked on the plans for this celebration," Avellino said. "Ray Moncavage here was Ron's right-hand man and they worked to create what we see here today that has grown stronger over the last 20 years."

Avellino then presented special plaques to Tanney and Moncavage and flowers to their wives.

Following remarks from Mount Carmel Mayor Philip Cimino, a musical selection by Kiersten Gallagher and the ribbon cutting by athlete William Bressi, the games were underway.

When they were done competing, athletes could win prizes at the duck drop game or check out displays of the Clover Hose Fire Company engine and motorcycles from the Unknown Riders Motorcycle Club.

Special thanks

Organizers thanked the Mount Carmel Area School District and high school band for their support, Northumberland County, Clover Hose Fire Company, AREA Ambulance and local medical and emergency units, Mount Carmel Police and fire police, all the event captains, coaches and field personnel, Academy Sports Center, Reinhart Foods, John Koschoff and Company, MC Coney, Mattucci's Willow Cafe, Hollywood Pizza and Bakery, Pete's Restaurant and Pizzeria, Village Towne Restaurant , Vine Street Subs, The Bull Pen, RMC Rental Inc, Subway, Stan Wood Products, Vince Rawa of Tastykake, DJ JR Lazer, Holsum Bakery, Flowers from the Heart, the Mount Carmel Joint Veterans Honor Guard and Northwestern Academy.