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Special Olympics tradition continues

Olympics
Apr. 27, 2013 @ 02:44 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Athletes flooded the the football field at Spring Valley High School on Friday, but it wasn't really about who won. Everyone comes out a winner in the annual Wayne County Special Olympics.

That meant more than 400 competitors, from 8 years old to senior citizens, were all-stars in such events as shot put, track and field, softball toss and long jump.

"He loves it. He absolutely loves it," said Patricia David, whose 9-year-old son, J.P., competed. "It makes them feel they are part of something bigger. This is freedom to them."

This is the day where those with disabilities aren't left on the sidelines. They are the stars on the field. And it touches those who take part as volunteers or serve as special education teachers in the school system.

"This is the day they look forward to all year," said Chelsee Short, a first-year teacher at Wayne Middle School. "They feel like a champion. There's nothing like it."

Short and her Wayne Middle colleague, Hannah Carey, said they shed plenty of joyful tears watching their students take part. And that really stems from the joy they see in the kids.

"You see them light up," Carey said. "They have confidence here."

The Special Olympics also creates a need for volunteers, as Bailey mentioned that about 400 were on hand to lead the individual sporting events, sell concessions or take part as a hugger, a person that works one-on-one with each athlete to get them where they need to be and to cheer them on throughout the day.

Spring Valley senior Tyler Radcliffe has been a volunteer since he was a freshman, mostly staffing the main microphone from the sidelines on the football field. That gives him a great view of the track events and a satisfaction that he is able to help in some small way.

"It feels good helping all these kids out," said Radcliffe, who wants to be a doctor. "It's special for them. Their expression says it all."

Several awards also were given out to individuals, including: athlete of the year, Scottie Perry, Fort Gay resident (senior); coach of the year, Mindy McCoy, aide at Spring Valley and volunteer with the adult outreach program; volunteers of the year, Sally Davenport and Pam Baker from Spring Valley; and lifetime achievement award, Teresa Roe, Kenova Elementary.

Bailey also indicated that Roe went above and beyond to get her students to the competition Friday. Kenova Elementary was closed because of a water problem, but Roe was up early making phone calls to make sure her students didn't miss out.

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