“I think it’s been wonderful,” said Cathy Hoggard, the Special Olympics coordinator for Richmond County. “It turned out to be a beautiful day and I think the athletes enjoyed it. It’s gone really smoothly and I hope it will continue to grow.”
Some won gold and some won silver, but they all won something, and most importantly, they had fun.
Ashley Benton was particularly excited because she’d just won her game of Bocce Ball by a score of 12-5 and was on her way to having a great birthday.
Benton was celebrating her Sweet 16 Friday.
Her dad, Brian Benton, said he was very excited for his daughter, who had trained after school for weeks for this event.
“I think it’s very cool,” he said.
This was the first Special Olympic games for Velma Ingram and her 8-year-old son A.J. Wilson, who also won his Bocce game.
“I think it’s wonderful they’re thinking of the kids with special needs,” Ingram said. “It’s about time. It’s nice to have them be with kids they know and can relate to. I wish they could do more.”
And so does the Special Olympics committee. In the past the committee has done only the Spring Games which includes track and field events, and the Fall Games were held this year in an effort to create year-round opportunities for the athletes.
“It’s wonderful,” said volunteer Wanda Leviner who works for the Exceptional Children’s Department at the Richmond County Schools’ Central Office. “This is the best thing that could happen to these children. They’re so enthusiastic.”
Friday’s games also included a soccer clinic where athletes could pick up soccer skills so that sport can be included in next year’s fall games.
On Saturday from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at Strikers Bowling Alley, the Special Olympics are having a Bowling Party to get the athletes interested in bowling so that maybe, it too can become one of their regular competitive sports.
For volunteer opportunities or to find out more about the Special Olympics, call Hoggard at (910) 895-5946.
n Staff writer Eren Tataragasi can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 19 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.