Special Olympics is always a wonderful event to see

Published 8:28 am Friday, May 4, 2012

I had the pleasure of attending one of my favorite events of the year last Thursday. And, boy, did I enjoy myself. If you have never attended the Decatur County Special Olympics track and field event, do yourself a favor and make it a priority to attend next year.

Watching 59 student-athletes, of all ages, compete in the various events for no other reason than enjoying themselves and having fun is both refreshing and heartwarming at the same time.

These athletes compete to win, but compete with no expectations. They seem to relish the opportunity to be together and have a good time, to get the high fives, to be told they did a good job. These athletes are just fun to be around and to watch.

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As a little background, Eunice Kennedy Shriver is credited with starting what would become Special Olympics in the early 1960s. She held events for special-needs children in her backyard, Camp Shriver.

The first Special Olympics Summer Games were held in Chicago in 1968 and the first Winter Games were held in 1977, hosted by Steamboat Springs, Colo.

The reach of the Special Olympics has grown worldwide. What started as a few kids playing games in a backyard in the early 1960s has grown to include more than 2.7 million competitors from more than 170 countries.

After many years of being dormant, a great committee decided three years ago to bring back the Decatur County Special Olympics. Driving the effort to make this event, and the other associated Special Olympics events, such a great success is the committee chairman Jim Beck and the area coordinator Paul Medley.

Jim told me that the best recognition is watching the kids have a good time, but he is being modest. This committee has worked awfully hard to provide the venue and opportunity for these kids, and the adult participants in Special Olympics, to have a good time.

In addition to Jim and Paul, the other committee members, each with a specific area of responsibility, are: Pat Harrell, Debbie Strickland, Jim Holton, Crystal Heirs, Catherine Vanstone, Jamie Kelly, Jennifer Wilkinson, Catherine Gossett and Ruby Barlow.

These folks should be very proud of what they have been able to accomplish is just three short years.

It was good to see great representation of our local governmental leaders in attendance during the event, as well. The Bainbridge City Council, the Decatur County Commission, and the Decatur County Board of Education were all very well represented during Thursday’s event.

The torchbearer this year was Dr. Fred Rayfield, school superintendent, followed by a strong cadre of local law enforcement officers.

But the real stars of this event were the participants. These kids live all across our county, have different backgrounds, have different socio-economic situations, and have different physical conditions. But, Thursday at Bainbridge, the one common denominator among all 59 was that they had fun.

The Special Olympics motto that begins every event is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Every one of these kids was brave in the attempt.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at jeff.findley@thepostsearchlight.com.