By Hayley M. Cook
WILLIAMSON - The Special Olympics took place at Burch Middle School this year and Special Education Director Teria Keathley is proud of everyone involved in making it happen.
“It took the whole county,” Keathley said of preparation for the event. “Principals, bus drivers, teachers, aides … it was a big team effort.”
The event started at 9 a.m. and lasted until 1 p.m. Wednesday at the football field located at Burch Middle School, and the turnout was impressive with 150 Olympians, 45 teachers and aides, and 56 volunteers present, not to mention the parents and families of all the children involved.
For participants age 11 and under, a 50-meter walk/run was set up, while participants over the age of 12 had the option of participating in either the 100- or 200-meter walk/run. Other events for the athletes included the long jump and shot put.
Kids were paired up with junior and senior high school students from both Mingo Central and Tug Valley high schools. Teenagers from both high schools also dressed as clowns and played games with the younger children to entertain them between events, which helped the adults focus on the races and awards ceremony.
Also providing games for the kids was the Mingo County Parent Educator Resource Center.
Kaye Maynard, director of School Nutrition and Wellness, said all the schools brought bagged lunches for the children.
The LPN Mingo County Extended Learning Center provided free water and a first aid station, while STAT Ambulance services were close by in case of emergency. Sandy Chapman, Mingo County nurse, said there had only been a few minor cuts and scrapes with no other injuries to report. The MELC provided free face painting for the kids as well.
Also set up was a booth by Necco, a foster care agency, supplying information for those interested in foster care awareness and adoption. Home Resources Coordinator Rebecca C. Adams can be contacted for further information at (304) 752-7830.
Keathley said the Special Olympics always ends with a 4 x 100-meter relay, an interactive event that showcases the kids working together toward a common goal. The 4 x 100-meter relay was a fitting end for a day that focused on allowing special needs students to come together to play and have fun.
The heart of the Special Olympics seems to be that every child is capable and worthy of celebrating, and that better health is important for everyone. This fun day is a treasured time for children with disabilities and their families, and its value in the community is certainly worth more than any gold medal could ever be.
Maynard and Keathley made a joint statement, saying, “It is such a rewarding experience to see the students enjoy their special day. This is a day for them to be proud of their accomplishments. Today is about them.”