Dean of Fun volunteers at the Special Olympics

PAUL SMITHS - He's a farmer, an outdoorsman, a jack-of-all-trades, and a Paul Smith's College staff member. He's Jim Tucker, self-proclaimed Dean of Fun.

Now, the illustrious Dean can add event coordinator to his ever-growing resume as the four-day Special Olympics World Winter Games wind down in McCall, Idaho.

Tucker flew out west last week to help organize and run the snowshoeing event as part of a six-person crew. 290 athletes representing 50 countries converged on the prairie city between Feb. 8 and 12 to compete in the ninth installment of the Games, which were held at Ponderosa State Park. Athletes took part in races covering 10 different distances.

"It's hard for me to fathom 50-some nations sending folks to Idaho to participate in snowshoeing," said Tucker.

If Tucker had a difficult time processing the magnitude of the event, the average, leisure-time snowshoer should take heed - because Tucker knows his snowshoeing.

The Gabriels resident first got involved with snowshoe racing in 1972, and later took an active role as a race organizer for the Sherpa World Cup of Amateur Snowshoe Racing, hosted by Paul Smith's College in January 1988.

"On the state level, I have been the President of the Empire State Snowshoe Racing Association since the origin of this organization in 1999, and am currently on the board of the United States Snowshoe Association," added Tucker.

Tucker has been volunteering and organizing Special Olympics events for 12 years, dating back to 1997 when he first brought a regional competition to Paul Smith's College during the winter.

Up until this year, Tucker had only been involved with the Games on a local and regional level. That changed last summer when Tucker was approached by Saranac Lake resident Donna Walsh, a life-long volunteer for the Special Olympics.

"Donna contacted me about eight months ago asking me questions about snowshoe officiating and inquired about my potential interest in attempting to become a volunteer official for the World Winter Special Olympics," said Tucker, adding that he and Walsh had worked together at Paul Smith's events in the past.

Tucker jumped at the opportunity, and he noted that the experience was a good one. He compared the venues at Ponderosa to local facilities like Mt. Van Hovenburg, a cross-country ski center located several miles outside of Lake Placid.

These were the ninth Special Olympics World Winter Games since the event made its premiere in 1977. The Games occur every four year and draw upward of 2,500 athletes from 100 countries.

Tucker returned from the games this week.

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