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DECATUR -- With winter chills looming outside, warmth seeped in the atmosphere in Johns Hill Center on Wednesday.

The Decatur Park District's Special Recreation Association sponsors monthly bingo, among a host of other activities for people with developmental disabilities. Most participants get to know each other quite well between activities such as dances and sports, so it was fitting that Wednesday also gave them a chance to exchange Valentine's cards.

Prizes were Valentine-themed, and the smell of pizza wafted through the air. Someone's "bingo" would inevitably cause others to applaud in support. 

“It's fun – you play bingo and meet people,” said Shelley Karl, gesturing to the tables around her as she described her friends. Karl, 56, has been coming to park district activities for more than a decade.

Special Recreation Association supervisor Dana Floyd said many of the participants become good friends, even if they only see each other at park district activities.

The offerings are many, with something for everyone: bingo, movie night, dinner club, dances and a full spectrum of Special Olympics sports. Costs vary, but are reasonable – for instance, Wednesday's bingo and pizza cost $8 per person. The district provides transportation.

“Our activities are very, very important to them. If the calendar's not at their house on the day that they think it should be, our phones are ringing,” Floyd said.

Matt Arbogast, 30, said he likes participating in bingo and other activities. Asked what people should know about the special recreation activities, he said, “They should come out here and visit and watch us."

Jill Buzan, 19, likes coming to bingo, "especially when my BFF is here," but she lights up when describing Special Olympics sports that she has played: snowshoeing, volleyball, bowling and track and field.

The park district has at least one Special Olympics sport going at any given time. Five athletes recently traveled to Galena to compete in the state-level snowshoeing competition.

To find out more about the park district's special recreation activities, call the Johns Hill Center at (217) 421-7750.

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Regional Editor

Regional editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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