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Special Olympics – It touched hearts

For the first time in years, competition returned for students with disabilities as Thursday’s Special Olympics was held at the new Bainbridge High School track.

Decatur County School System Director of Special Education Jimmie Hill described it as a great event that allowed the athletes to show off their skills while allowing others to watch the enjoyment on their faces as they competed.

“It touched the hearts of everyone in the school system, the city and the county who were there,” he said.

Hill said special education teachers heard some excited comments from their athletic competitors.

During the escort of the buses to the track, one young man, looking up and seeing the blue lights flashing on the law enforcement cars, happily exclaimed, with a big smile, “Is this for me, I can’t believe it.”

A young lady, holding three ribbons she had won, proudly exclaimed, “I’ve never won a ribbon before, this is great.”

“I’m having a great time, and I want to go hug someone,” another young man proclaimed.

The day’s activities began with the playing of the national anthem by the Bainbridge High School Band and the marching of the teams around the track behind their banners.

With Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin leading the way, the Fraternal Order of Law Enforcement made up of members of the Decatur County Sheriffs Department, the Bainbridge Public Safety Department and the Georgia State Patrol conducted a torch run around the track.

At its conclusion, Sheriff Griffin held the torch high and proclaimed the Special Olympic games open.

The Rev. Paul Medley, pastor of Bainbridge First Baptist Church and chairman of the Decatur County Special Olympics Leadership Team, led the athletes in the Special Olympics pledge of “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Following the competition, the Rev. Medley said he thought it went extremely well.

“The leadership team did a great job, and the community supported us well,” he said.

Athletes competed in the 50-yard walk, the 50-yard dash, the 100-yard walk, the 100-yard dash, the softball throw, the standing long jump and the wheelchair race.

Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA CEO Ken Bailey, who trained the Special Olympics volunteers, said he thought the day went very well.

“We had great volunteers who were willing to do whatever needed doing,” Bailey said. “We also had great support from the school system, the high school and law enforcement.’’