Special Olympics 2017: Why fit in if you were born to stand out? | Sports | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | November 9, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: November 8, 2017 at 11:06 am
“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt!”
By CINDY CROSBY
The Colleton County Special Olympics was held Thursday Nov. 2 at the track located at Colleton County Middle School. With approximately 250 special needs student-athletes and 200 volunteers in attendance, the Area 8 annual event was centered on promoting acceptance and inclusion for special needs students while giving every athlete the opportunity to feel like a champion on the field.
Many of the student volunteers from Colleton County High School and Colleton Prep Academy call the day “one of their favorite days of the year.” Special Olympics Director Becky Hooker said the initiative to improve interaction with special needs students is continuing to grow. “Our regular education students are already very supportive, so we have a great foundation to build upon, as evidenced in the interaction with our athletes in today’s events.”
Following a long-standing tradition, the Walterboro Police Department opened ceremonies by walking in the torch.
NAIFA representative Deborah Culpepper introduced the 2017 Ambassador Tylesha Phoenix, a 6-year-old student at Black Street Early Childhood Center. “She has overcome so many obstacles and brings joy to everyone she meets,” said Culpepper. “She never has a bad day and greets everyone she passes with a smile. She loves being around her friends and you can often find her holding hands with her classmates. She has an amazing spirit that radiates from her and is contagious to others.”
Recognized as the 2017 Hall of Fame inductee was Robert “Bobby” Walchak, who competed in the Colleton and S.C. State Special Olympics games when he was 8 years old, making him one of the first elementary students to compete from Colleton County. He won two gold medals that year in running events, then went on to compete in the state games for several years, winning more gold and silver medals. He was the youngest athlete ever to win a gold medal in the state games for Colleton County.
During opening ceremonies, the Colleton County High School NJROTC presented the colors. Student Zanae Richardson sang the National Anthem and Noah Wright held the opening prayer. CCMS students recited the Special Olympics Oath with the Olympians.
Olympians enjoyed fun and competitive athletic events throughout the day such as the 50-meter dash, 100-meter dash and walk, 100-meter assisted walk, 100-meter wheelchair race, softball throw, face painting and a carnival area with games and prizes.
Colleton County High School Student Government Advisor Becky Goodwin coordinated the many student volunteers who ran the events and served as escorts to the classes. The Elks Lodge organized lunch for the Olympians and volunteers, along with providing water. The Civitans sponsored t-shirts which featured the Dr. Seuss quote “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” The t-shirts were designed by CCHS student Kristopher Lisbon, who won the design contest held last spring.
“A special thanks to everyone who helped with today’s events,” said Hooker. “We had a wonderful event thanks to the support from so many in our community including our hard-working teachers, coaches, assistants and student volunteers. Our athletes had great attitudes and showed tremendous effort throughout the day. It was, indeed, a stand-out effort.”