By Kristin Fox
It was fiesta time at Macon Middle School last Friday as several area athletes joined together to participate in the 2023 Special Olympics Macon County. Macon County athletes “raced to the fiesta” from Cartoogechaye, Iotla Valley and South Macon Elementary Schools, as well as Mountain View Intermediate, Macon Middle School, Franklin High School, Highlands School, Macon County Citizen’s Habilities and the community to participate in this year’s local regional games.
Athletes proudly wore bright orange t-shirts adorned with this year’s game theme “Race to the Fiesta.” The games opened with the traditional torch run by local law enforcement including officers from the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and the Franklin and Highlands Police Departments. Both current and former Sheriffs Brent Holbrooks and Robbie Holland were on hand to cheer on the athletes as well as present medals to the athletes.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance everyone recited the Special Olympics athlete oath — “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
At this year’s Special Olympics, athletes ages 8 to 60+participated in field events — softball throw, tennis ball throw, shot put, standing and running long jump and track events — 10 m wheelchair and assisted walk; 25 m wheelchair, walk and dash; 50 m walk and dash; 100 m race walk and dash; 200 and 400 m dash; 800 and 1500 m run and the 4×100 relay & unified relay.
For over 50 years, athletes have participated in the Special Olympics. Special Olympics began as a backyard summer camp called Camp Shriver and wasstarted in June 1962 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in Potomac, Maryland for people with intellectual disabilities. Today, Special Olympics has grown to today’s global movement and is the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities with more than five million Special Olympics athletes in 172 countries.
Shriver founded Special Olympics with a vision that individuals with intellectual disabilities were far more capable in sports and physical activity than many experts believed possible. In 1968, Mrs. Shriver organized the first Special Olympics International Games in Chicago, Illinois. Six athletes from North Carolina were among the participants.
Special Olympics North Carolina held its first Games in 1970 with 400 participants and has since grown to be recognized globally as one of the largest Special Olympics programs in the world. Nearly 40,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities participate in Special Olympics North Carolina.
These programs are organized by approximately 100 sub-accredited local programs throughout the state, and the involvement of more than 40,000 volunteers makes possible nearly 8,000 sport practices and 400 competition events at local, area, state, regional, and national levels each year.
Athletes are never charged a fee of any kind to participate in Special Olympics. Generous support from individuals, businesses, foundations, and civic groups helps fund the games’ expenses.
To learn more about Special Olympics go to specialolympics.org or locally visit the Macon County Special Olympics Facebook page.