Five athletes from Tuolumne County are headed to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.

They’ll join 3,500 athletes from across the United States July 1-6, competing in 16 Olympic-type individual and team sports, as well as special events.

Dave DeCheney, the Tuolumne-area director since 2012, said it’s the first time athletes from Tuolumne County have been chosen to attend a USA Games event.

“It’s a lifetime experience,” he said.

Staci Sherbert will be competing in golf. She’ll play a nine-hole alternate shot format with her partner Kathi Kopyn.

Jonathan DeCosta will represent the area in track and field, participating in the javelin throw, shot put and the 100-yard dash.

Morgan Fox is set to swim in three events, the 25-, 50-, 100-meter races.

Competing in Tuolumne County’s Special Olympics most popular sport - bowling - are Kevin Bass and Ellen Tombo.

To qualify for the competitions, DeCheney said athletes first had to win a gold medal in regional competition. Those were held in Clovis, Folsom, Fresno and for bowlers, Black Oak Lanes.

Once regional competitions were completed, the names of all the gold medal winners from around the state are put into a draw.

The 2018 games will include 54 athletes from Northern California, said DeCheney.

To help with the cost of the trip, fundraisers will be held over the next few months.

The next opportunity for the community to contribute comes Oct. 17 when local law enforcement officers serve as celebrity waiters at the annual Tip-a-Cop fundraiser at Applebee’s. All tips to officers between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. will go to Northern California Special Olympics athletes.

The Tuolumne County Special Olympics will also host athletes from Calaveras and Amador counties Nov. 11 at Black Oak Lanes for a regional competition. The event begins at 10 a.m.

For more information about upcoming events and other ways to donate, visit www.sonc.org.

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