News Article Details

Support sought for Special Olympics

Richmond County Daily Journal - 4/28/2017

April 27--ROCKINGHAM -- This time next week, about 100 Special Olympics athletes will be going for the gold on the Richmond Senior High School football field for the 2017 Spring Games.

Theressa Smith, volunteer coordinator, wants to see a crowd.

"Our words for this season are 'Fans in the Stands,'" she said Wednesday evening. "I'm really trying to get people to come out and support our athletes. I was talking to a group and said, 'Can you imagine going to Raiders football game and there being nobody in the stands?'

"That's how it feels when our Special Olympics athletes are out there," she continued. "They work hard and they're very excited about this opportunity and I just would love for people in our community to get out and support them."

Smith said she's just asking for two hours of county residents' time to cheer for the athletes and give them the "encouragement and support we give our other athletes."

The participants are at least 8 years old and have a wide range of intellectual disabilities, including autism, and must have a physical completed.

A lot of the athletes are from Cordova School and a few other schools, some are the different group homes in the county and others live with their parents or are self-sufficient.

According to Smith, Richmond Senior Athletic Director Ricky Young gets volunteers from the high school to help out, and Temple Christian School also sends volunteers. There will also be volunteers from the school system and social services to help run the events.

For the Spring Games, participants compete in running or walking (which can also include wheelchairs), softball toss and jumping, which can be standing or running.

Smith said the athletes can participate in just one event, or all three, depending on if they are able to or if they choose to.

The state does not fund the local Special Olympics games, Smith said, so all the funding is raised from around Richmond County.

One of those sources is the annual Buddy Roe's bike ride, which will be in its eighth year on May 6. The ride will start and end at the Rockingham VFW post, where there will also be an auction, T-shirts, a 50/50 drawing, door prizes and barbecue pork or chicken plates for sale at $7 each.

Registration begins at 11 a.m., $15 for single riders or $20 for doubles. There are also packages available that include a shirt and 10 tickets for the drawing.

Smith said other businesses and organizations have been approached about donating, although a sponsor for the competitors' T-shirts has not yet been found. This year, a church will be donating all the drinks and snacks.

She said the major costs associated with running the Special Olympics include the medals the athletes receive, the T-shirts they wear, the cost of renting a storage building to keep equipment and supplies.

The Spring Games will start with an opening ceremony May 4 around 9:45 a.m. with Richmond County Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. carrying the torch around the track, a presentation of the flags by the Army JROTC color guard and music from Cordova School's choir.

Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.

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