Team Pearl River County: Record turnout at Special Olympics
Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2016
“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in my attempt.” –– Special Olympics creed.
Thursday, more than 130 brave athletes displayed their athletic skills during Pearl River County’s Special Olympics event.
It was held at the Picayune Memorial High School stadium and was one of the biggest Olympics the Picayune Kiwanis Club has hosted in 34 years, Picayune Kiwanis Club President Tom Milar said.
“Usually we have about 80 to 85 athletes, ranging in ages 5 to 60 years old,” Milar said. “This was really fantastic and everyone did a great job getting the word out.”
Area III Special Olympics Director Katherine Clough said one of the reasons for the larger turnout is the fact the club hosted the event on a school day.
“It enables the school children to participate,” she said. “We thank the schools for bringing them.”
Athletes from Bridgeway, Millbrook and Brandi’s Hope participated as well as students from the exceptional education classes at Picayune, PRC and Poplarville’s elementary schools.
The crowd in the stadium watched athletes participate in bocce ball, a softball and tennis ball throw, long jump, wheelchair race, a 50, 100, 200 and 400-meter walk and a 50 and 100-meter dash, Milar said.
Each athlete was paired with a buddy. Putting on the event entailed more than the 22 Kiwanis members volunteering that day.
Students from Picayune Memorial pitched in by not only providing assistance, but cheering everyone on, Milar said.
During the opening ceremony, students from the NJROTC presented the colors, and the band, cheerleaders and flag team led the parade around the field’s track.
“It made the athletes feel so special to march,” Milar said. “The school students really stepped up to the plate. They were just fantastic. Members of the Picayune Fire Department also volunteered Thursday.”
Each athlete received a Special Olympics shirt, medal, a bag and ribbons were awarded to first through third place winners in each category.
On March 19, 70 adult athletes from Pearl River County will participate in the Area III Special Olympics Field Games at the John C. Stennis Space Center, Clough said. Area III includes Pearl River, Stone, Hancock and Harrison Counties.
“The state games are held at Keesler Air Force Base and we are only allowed to take 63 from each area,” Clough said. “Each year I draw lots to give everyone a fair chance.”
Stennis is still seeking volunteers for the event and also raising money to purchase T-shirts for each athlete, she said. More information can be found at www.sscspecialolympics.org.
Clough spoke highly of Picayune’s Kiwanis Club.
“They take care of and cover everything,” she said. “They raise their money and spend it locally. This year’s event was fantastic. It also opened the eyes of the school kids who volunteered to a whole other side of life.”
For Milar and his fellow Kiwanis members, this event is the number one thing they strive to make successful each year.
“It was, overall, a great day. The weather held out and we appreciate everything Katherine did for us,” Milar said. “The smile on their faces when they were leaving was worth thousands of dollars. Whatever they do, they’re sincere.”