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HUNTINGTON — The 50th anniversary of Cabell County Special Olympics took place Friday at Huntington High School.

About 720 athletes and volunteers from across Cabell County gathered on the school’s football field on a warm and sunny morning to watch competitions specially designed for those with mental or physical disabilities.

“We have a population that is constantly told what they can’t do. Put them on an athletic field and they can compete like anyone else,” said Jack Defazio, who, along with his wife, Susan, are the Special Olympics organizers for Cabell County.

Athletes ranging in age from elementary school to young adult participated in the activities, like the running long jump, softball throw or 100-meter run.

Some events like the 10-meter walk, designed for athletes needing assistance, were met with applause and celebration from attendees upon completion.

This was the first Special Olympics event in Cabell County since 2019, and the excitement was palpable.

“This event provides the athletes with a unique experience and recognition for their accomplishments,” said Heather Scarberry, director of special education for Cabell County Schools.

“Special Olympics is an inspirational experience,” Scarberry said.

“The fact that we haven’t had this in two years makes all of us here very excited. Everyone seems very happy to be here,” said Tamara Mitchell, a volunteer manning the finish line.

Mitchell normally spends her days as a Cabell County school psychologist but was one of many schoolteachers and administrators volunteering to put on the event. Volunteers from Huntington and Cabell Midland high schools were also present.

In the past, Cabell County Special Olympics has hosted several events including flag football, volleyball, basketball and golf. Defazio says he hopes to see those make a comeback this year.

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