Special Olympics Track and Field brings smiles to participants and volunteers

Published 4:43 pm Friday, March 29, 2019

Buses full of special needs athletes shuttled down Shotwell Street Friday morning, escorted by a motorcade from the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office and Georgia State Patrol to Bainbridge High School for the annual Special Olympics Track and Field event.

You’d be hard-pressed not to find a smile on any of their faces as they were cheered on the moment they left the Earle May Boat Basin to when they paraded down the halls of BHS into the gymnasium for a morning of friendly athletic competition.

The joy, confidence and enhancement these athletes experience through Special Olympics Track and Field is enough to keep hundreds of volunteers and sponsors coming back each year.

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“It’s just been so overwhelming,” said Wanda Thomas, director of Decatur County Special Olympics. “Each year, more people want to help us out and donate. I want the community to understand that we don’t have the funds to put this on. We depend on donations from our community.”

Bank of the Ozarks, First Port City Bank, First National Bank, First State Bank of Bainbridge, Peoples South Bank, Dairy Queen, Pilot Club of Bainbridge, Southern Regional Technical College, Coca-Cola, Melinda Taylor State Farm and Harrell King Heating and Cooling each contributed to making this year’s even possible.
Bainbridge FFA donated lunch for the day: hamburgers and hotdogs.

DCSO deputies and Sheriff Wiley Griffin jogged behind this year’s torch runner, Bobby D., who was cheered on as he ran around the gym to officially kick of this year’s games. Afterward, they donated a $500 check.

Students from BHS volunteer every year to be a part of Special Olympics Track and Field day. Generally, every special needs athlete will have their own student guide to cheer, coach and support them through the different athletic events. Students had to write an essay on why they would be good volunteers for the event.

Macy Garcia, a junior at Bainbridge, said seeing the joy on the special needs athletes’ faces kept her coming back every year. It’s more than just volunteering, it’s a passion.

“Every year that they host the Special Olympics, I volunteer, because it is so heartwarming to see the smile on the kids’ faces and just how happy everything makes them,” said Garcia. “The joy that is brought to them is also brought to me. It fills my heart.”