Kelly Jo Carlson swim meet planned

WARREN – For the past 10 years, a local family has held an annual swim meet in memory of their daughter and sister who spent years volunteering her time for Special Olympics.

The 10th annual Kelly Jo Carlson Memorial Swim Meet will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Warren G. Harding Natatorium as part of Special Olympics.

“This is a qualifying state meet with 125 participants expected,” said Paul Carlson, Kelly’s father, of Cortland.

Teams are from Trumbull, Mahoning, Ashtabula, Columbiana, Summit, Portage and Stark.

Carlson said the event has been held at Youngstown State University in prior years and in the past few years at Harding High School. The event is a qualifying meet for the state meet in Columbus.

Kelly Jo Carlson was a longtime Special Olympics volunteer and lettered four times in softball and competitive swimming while a student at Warren Western Reserve High School. She helped with the swimming program at Fairhaven School in Niles.

Paul Carlson said following his daughter’s death, Fairhaven School started the swim meet. The family has been sponsoring the meet with volunteers including family members and high school and college friends of Kelly’s.

“This event has meant a lot to many people,” he said

Paul Carlson said the meet allows special-needs adults the opportunity to show their swimming skills, to compete and to receive honors.

”This showcases their skills and abilities as swimmers,” he said.

Swimmers range in age and disability, but all have fun being able to swim and compete, he said.

Kelly Carlson went on to graduate from Kent State University and was in the process of completing her master’s degree in business administration at Webster University in San Diego when she died in April 2004.

Paul Carlson said the event reflects two important items in his daughter’s life: swimming and Special Olympics. The Carlson family covers the expenses for the meet.