Special Olympics off to a good start

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Athletes spent the day running, jumping and throwing Tuesday at Vicksburg Memorial Stadium.

Tuesday was the first phase of the Area 10 Special Olympics for track where there were about 100 junior high, high school and adult participants. Wednesday morning, about 100 elementary students are participating.

“Special Olympics was established by Eunice Kennedy for special needs to give them a venue to compete,” games director Lucy Young said. “It’s set up like the regular Olympics but geared to special needs.”
Young, also known as Coach Young, explained to compete, participants must have special education ruling through the school district, but once that has been established, there is no age limit.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“We have, 6, 7 and 8 year olds up through their 70s,” she said.

Young, who has been involved for more than 30 years, said putting on the Special Olympics is a team effort.

“The Kiwanis club of Vicksburg year after year have provided assistance,” she said. “It’s just a great group of people who come out and help on the secondary level.”

Vicksburg High School Key Club, various students from Porter’s Chapel Academy and Warren Central High School and other members of the community also help put on the Special Olympics.

In addition to Special Olympics, Area 10 also hosts soccer skills, basketball, softball, volleyball, bowling and track and field.

“Throughout the school year, we have those events on different days,” she said. “One of the best things is, using these volunteers, their peers, they get as much enjoyment out of it as the participants do.

“What I hope they’ll take away is that they’ll want to continue to work with this and I hope it inspires some to become special education teachers,” Young said. “I hope they’ll see what a blessing it is working with the special needs students and how they’re not different from them. They have just as much fun, they work just as hard, and I hope they’ll be inspired by that.”

Assistant Director Sandy Hearn, who has worked with the Special Olympics for 18 years, echoed Young.

“They love being around the kids,” she said. “As a matter of fact, my granddaughter is 17, and she’s decided she’s going to be a special education teacher.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about the athletes, Hearn said.

“It’s rewarding to see the looks on these athletes’ faces,” she said. “They can participate just like any other athlete can and get ribbons and medals.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer with the Special Olympics or similar events hosted by Area 10 can call the Vicksburg Warren School District central office’s office of technology at 601-638-5122 to get involved.