2018 Area 11 Special Olympics a tremendous success

Published 11:05 pm Monday, April 16, 2018

AMERICUS – Several courageous, young athletes gathered Friday, April 13, at Americus-Sumter High School for the Area 11 Special Olympics. It is the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics.

athletes ranging from small children to young adults gathered from several surrounding counties for a time of competition, fun and fellowship. They competed in events such as the Wheel Chair Race, the 100 Meter Run, the 10 Meter Walk, Softball Toss, and the relay races among other events. “It’s really all about the students and the community to come out and see the athletes perform and all the hard work they’ve had,” said Gavin Bernstein, Director of the Area 11 Special Olympics. “This year has been the largest participation that we’ve had since I’ve been involved.”

Dooly County athletes passing baton in relay race.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Athletes from Sumter County, Dooly County, Crisp County, Taylor County, Worth County and Lee County came to participate. The event was put on at Americus-Sumter High school in conjunction with ASH and Georgia Southwester State University.

Car Willis, the on-site director at ASH, who also serves as the Boys Varsity Tennis Coach, was happy to be a part of such an event. “Thanks to all who helped to make this year’s Special Olympics a success,” Willis said. “It’s such a great moment to see these young athletes so excited to compete and show how hard they have worked on their skills. It is just a blessing to watch and cheer them on.”

Sumter County athlete competing in Motor Skills competition.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

While the games were going on, there was an area of the infield at ASH called “Olympic Town”, where kids could play games and enjoy fun activities.

Several GSW student-athletes and coaches were involved as volunteers at the event. There were volunteers from the Women’s’ Soccer Team. The Men’s’ Basketball Team and the Cross Country team. All of them were impacted from the courage that these athletes showed. GSW Mens’ Head Basketball Coach Ben Hicks was there. Seeing these athletes perform had a tremendous impact on him. “I am thankful to contribute to this amazing event,” Hicks said. “Being able to give back and volunteer at the Special Olympics is a great opportunity. The kids have so much drive and determination to excel.”

Sumter County athletes participating in the Softball throwing contest. Photo by Ken Gustafson

Keith Michlig is the Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information and Marketing at GSW. He said that he could see that the GSW student-athletes really felt the energy and enjoyed being a part of the Special Olympics. “We’ve been involved in the Special Olympics for a long time,” Michlig said. “It was fun to see the energy of our student-athletes getting involved. You could see that they really had a lot of energy and enjoyed helping out the athletes participating. We do this in the Spring and the Fall. It’s always fun to be able to give back to the community in this way.”

Hallie Turner, a student at GSW from Thomasville, GA and a member of the Kappa Delta Sorority, was also there volunteering. “I’ve volunteered for Special Olympics before,” Turner said. “It helped me with understanding children who can’t always do what I can do. It’s always a humbling feeling be able to give back in a way to a community that has given so much to me.”

One thing in common with every athlete competing at the Area 11 Special Olympics was that they enjoyed competing and had bright smiles on their faces. Every athlete was enjoying the opportunity to compete and have fun.

Sumter County athletes on the podium receiving their awards.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

As Gavin Bernstein said, the day was not so much about competition. The day was about the athletes having smiles on their faces. There were many awards given out to the athletes, but every athlete competing echoed the same thing that one athlete said: They had fun. GSW plans to hos another Special Olympics in the Fall inside the GSW Storm Dome.