The Cook County School Bus Company has offered to transport the Special Olympians free of charge to their events in Indiana.
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 due to an Indiana law. That law prohibits non-students from riding on school buses.
Five hundred participants, ranging in age from eight to 60 would have been impacted by the lack of transportation.
Athletes, like 23-year-old swimmer Nick Havrilla, an active member of the Porter County Special Olympics, were unsure how they would get to his meets. Havrilla 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.
"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.
Special Olympics basketball tournaments start next month and without the help of the bus company, the athletes wouldn't be able to attend because the cost of renting private transportation was too high.
Of all the counties in Indiana with Special Olympics programs, so far, only Porter has encountered this problem. Officials still want to solve the bus issue, not just for themselves, but for everyone else.