Special Olympics is a year-round program for children and adults with mental disabilities.
For many Lawrence adults and children, summer means softball.
And Perry Buck is no exception. He's ready to take the field.
"I play right field, left field, shortstop or second base, whichever they ask me to do," Buck said Thursday afternoon at Woody Park.
Buck, 33, is part of the Lawrence Green Machine -- a Special Olympics sports organization that will begin playing softball in two weeks.
"I'm in it every year. I'm a real sports fan," Buck said.
Buck moved to Lawrence from Texas about a year ago and works at Packerware.
Outgoing and talkative, Buck said he gets involved in as many Special Olympics competitions as he can.
Special Olympics is the world's largest program of year-round sports training, education and competition for children and adults with mental disabilities.
"I think I started back when I was 12, with my parents," Buck said. "I like almost every sport."
Buck also competes in basketball, track and field, bowling and volleyball and plans to go to a Special Olympics sports camp this summer at Kansas University. He recently participated in a basketball tournament at Hays.
He played softball for the Green Machine last year and plans to play with the team again when summer competition starts June 14.
Meanwhile, 15 of the 175 members of the Lawrence Green Machine were headed today to Wichita for this weekend's Kansas Special Olympics' 26th Annual Summer Games.
Of the group, 13 will participate in aquatics and two will be involved in track and field events.
Other events include gymnastics, cycling, roller skating, power lifting, tennis and soccer.
Not every local Special Olympics athlete is making the trip to Wichita's summer games, said Annette Deghand, who is special populations supervisor for Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department. She is also the Douglas County Special Olympics coordinator.
Deghand explained that local track and field Special Olympic athletes have already competed this spring in regional meets in Topeka and Leavenworth, so local coordinators decided not to make the trip to Wichita.
She said the Lawrence Green Machine participates in aquatics, basketball, volleyball, softball, track and field and bowling throughout the year.
"My softball program is a unique program," Deghand said. "Half of the team are special athletes and the other half are special partners, such as coaches and volunteers."
- Each local Special Olympics chapter is responsible for its own fund raising. Anyone wanting to make contributions to the Green Machine can contact Deghand at 832-7920.