Over 70 athletes head to ASHS for Special Olympics
Published 3:00 pm Thursday, May 5, 2016
By MICHAEL MURRAY
AMERICUS – The Spring Special Olympics Games were held on the campus of Americus-Sumter High School (ASHS) on April 29 in Americus. Hosted in a collaborative effort between Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) and ASHS, around 70 athletes with special needs from Sumter and Taylor Counties participated in the event.
Athletes of all ages from Sumter and Taylor Counties gathered at the ASHS football field to test their skills at in soccer-related events as well as other track and field-related competitions. The kids enjoyed activities involved in developing running, jumping, kicking, and throwing skills.
One of the event’s coordinators from GSW, Gavin Bernstein, told the Times-Recorder that around 100 student-athletes from GSW’s sports teams volunteered to help make the event successful alongside nearly 70 more students from the University. Around 75 students from ASHS volunteered at the event as well.
Lily Welch, the Games’ region coordinator from GSW, told the Times-Recorder, “Basically, this takes months of preparation. We have athletes and their volunteers sign up for time slots. We assign them times and stations and their events and have them here on time the day of and we just have fun.
Welch went on to say that representatives from nearly every one of GSW’s athletic programs were in attendance as volunteers. “Softball, Cross Country, men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, golf… I think we’re just missing baseball and they’re on the road this week” she said.
“We also have 35 young athletes as well who are not old enough to participate in the sanctioned games,” Bernstein added. “They participate in the ‘Olympic Town’ and some of the throwing and kicking activities. They don’t participate in the track events yet.” Athletes under the age of seven are not cleared to participate in the sanctioned events.
Activities in the “Olympic Town” portion of the event included face painting, corn hole, bocce ball, Frisbee-throwing, hula-hoping, and a host of other enjoyable games for the event’s younger participants.
“It’s just fun activities for the kids that help develop their skills,” Bernstein concluded.
Carl Willis, a long-time advocate of the Special Olympic Games who serves as an adaptive physical education coach in the Sumter County School System as well as a coach for the school’s tennis and football programs, spoke with the Times-Recoder as well at the event.
Asked for his thoughts on the execution of the event, Willis said, “It’s been absolutely great. We’re hoping that more schools from other systems will come and participate in the future. Obviously, it’s a big deal for the Sumter County School System to not only host it, but also to participate. We have all of our schools represented here… We have good numbers here… It’s been great and the volunteers have been super today. Absolutely super.”
Willis stated that a rain delay may have affected the turnout, as one school system had to cancel their plans to participate due to a scheduling conflict.
He then went on to praise the efforts of community members in helping ensure that all participants enjoyed a day of fun-filled activities in a safe, positive, and community-minded environment. Gold Star EMS and the Americus Fire Department volunteered time at the event to ensure the safety of participants.
Willis went on to say that the event would not have been possible without the dedication of Sumter County School’s Special Education coordinators, Sabrina Pitts and Gia Sandwich, in addition to contributions from many others.
In addition to the Spring Games, a Fall Special Olympics event is held each October on the campus of GSW, dealing with basketball skills.