Athletes gather at GSW for Georgia Special Olympics Area 11 fall games

Published 4:53 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

AMERICUS – On Friday, October 26, over 100 athletes from Sumter, Dooly, Taylor and Lee Counties gathered at the Storm Dome on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University to compete in the Georgia Special Olympics Area 11 fall games.

Several volunteers, including several GSW student-athletes, were on hand to help and assist the athletes as they competed in various competitions. Several awards were also handed out to the competitors.

The competitions included the Stationary Dribble, the 10-Meter Dribble, the Target Pass, the Partner Pass, the Head Lift, the Spot Shot and an event in which an athlete would roll a basketball across the table into a bucket.

Sumter County athlete competing in the spot shot competition.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Carl Willis, a teacher and coach at Americus-Sumter High School, works with the special olympic athletes in Sumter County. He was very pleased with the turn out by the athletes, teachers and volunteers. “It was another great day,” Willis said. ‘We’re all here today and we had a great opportunity to get together in spite of the rain. We got everybody in here dry and we’ll get them back on the bus dry today. The rain didn’t cooperate, but it didn’t stop us. This is the Area 11 Special Olympics day. I want to thank all of our administrators in the Sumter County School System, such as Jaqueline King, our new special needs director, for allowing this to take place.” Willis also thanked Georgia Special Olympics Area 11 Director Gavin Bernstein, as well as the first responders and all of the volunteers for making it a successful event.

Sumter County athletes receiving their awards.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

For many of the Georgia Southwestern State student-athletes, it was a time to give back to the community and assist these young athletes as they competed. The GSW student-athletes got joy out of being a part of it. “I think it’s a great thing. I think that everybody being able to come out here and do something that we all love to do is a great thing,” volunteer Geoffrey Martin said. “All the student-athletes get to get together and help out people that really want to be here and have a good time. I think it’s a really enjoyable time watching the smiles on their faces. Everyone else is having a great time too.”

Celia del Castillo, a senior from Seville, Spain, is a member of the GSW women’s tennis team. For her, volunteering for Special Olympics means a lot to her because she loves to see the kids have fun. “It means a lot. I’m so excited,” de Castillo said. “They’re having so much fun. It’s special for them and it’s special for us as well.” Madison Johnson, a freshman on the GSW women’s basketball team, helped out with the Partner Pass competition. An athlete would simply roll the ball to her, and she would roll it back. “It means a lot because most special needs people don’t get to do things like this.,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to see these athletes feel like they are equal to regular people.”

The Special Olympics Oath
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Amber DeLoach is a teacher at Sumter County Elementary School. For her, seeing the joy on the kids’ faces is rewarding for her. “It’s awesome,” DeLoach said. “I just love to see the joy on their faces when they get to do something like this. They get to be together as a team and not just in a classroom learning.”

Dylan Marshall is s senior on the GSW men’s soccer team. For him, volunteering at the special Olympics is a way he can come out and help the community. “I do it every year. I like to come out and help kids,” Marshall said.

Briana Bryson, a member of the GSW women’s softball team, was also there to volunteer. “I did this in high school, so this is special to me,” Bryson said. “Being able to see kids outside of my community at home is special.”

The young athletes from the various schools and counties that competed in the event clearly represented what Special Olympics is all about: giving kids with disabilities a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement. Friday’s event truly epitomized the Special Olympics Oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”