VALPARAISO, Ind. - A group of Special Olympics athletes from northwest Indiana are left without transportation to their sporting events due to an obscure Indiana law.
After years of providing school buses at a discounted rate to the Porter County Special Olympics program, the Valparaiso Community Schools District was told last month by their insurance company that they had to stop because an Indiana law forbids the district from transporting anyone other than students.
Five hundred participants, ranging in age from eight to 60 would be impacted.
Now, athletes like 23-year-old swimmer Nick Havrilla, an active member of the Porter County Special Olympics, are unsure how he will get to his meets. He spends at least three days a week in the pool and the program has been a large part of his life since he was age 8.
Now the district and Porter County's Special Olympics are working together to try and get the law changed.
"When the law was drafted, Special Olympics was left off a listing of activities that school buses could be used for," said Supt. Ric Frataccia, of the Valparaiso Community School District.
School and Special Olympics officials believe a change is possible, but how long will it take?
It needs to happen fast. Special Olympics basketball tournaments start next month and the cost of renting private transportation is so high, it's not even an option. They simply would not be able to go.
"My biggest concern is that it will impact my athletes and that I cannot live with. We have to change this law," said Lorrie Woycik, of the Special Olympics Indiana-Porter County.
Of all the counties in Indiana with Special Olympics programs, so far, only Porter has encountered this problem. Officials want to solve the bus issue not just for themselves, but for everyone else.