More than 200 area athletes compete in Special Olympics
The Mountain Press - 5/14/2018
SEVIERVILLE -- Until last year, six counties made up the Smoky Mountain Region of Special Olympics Tennessee. There has been so much growth that only Sevier and Cocke counties are now in the region, and they fielded 225 athletes at this week's track and field competition held at Sevier County High School.
Though the Special Olympics are celebrating their 50th year, many people don't realize that the athletic competitions are sanctioned by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. The state championships are held in Nashville. For many of the athletes, the event is one that they spend hours training for and anticipating.
"A lot of them, all year, they'll tell me they want to be on the list to go to Nashville," Betsy Edmond, area director of the Smoky Mountain Region Special Olympics, said. "They feel like they're part of something. They live for these events."
Edmond is stepping into the role of director after spending several years with co-worker Teresa Cloninger, who is leaving her post as director. Cloninger pointed out that the two-day event at SCHS is one that community members can enjoy.
"There's no cost to come," Cloninger said. "We also have an adult (Special Olympics) program in Sevier County."
For the young student athletes, this week's event included opportunities to compete in activities such as relays, standing long jump, wheelchair races and softball throw. Throughout the year, athletes train for competitions held seasonally in more than eight sports.
A new event for track and field will be included in next year's competition: the mini-javelin throw. According to the meet program guide, "If your athlete can throw a softball over 40 feet, then this is the event for them. ... No entry score will be required for the first year, and training will be done right before their division starts. The ends are rubber, and it is a very safe event."
As they were wrapping up the competition Thursday, Edmond and Cloninger were already making plans to travel next week to Nashville for Special Olympics Tennessee's summer games.
The experience is a meaningful one to the athletes, and it can be an expensive one for the organization.
Community members can support the athletes by donating money or items such as bottled water and snacks. Businesses contribute by sponsoring an event or an athlete. Tennessee State Bank provided lunch for the recent event at SCHS. Members of the Sevier County Rescue Squad were present to assist with any medical needs.
Edmond encouraged people to attend Special Olympics events even if they don't have family members competing.
"If they want to have a good time and see true joy, come to Special Olympics," she said.
On June 11, the Sevierville Golf Club hosts the East Tennessee Open for Special Olympics Tennessee.
To donate to the Smoky Mountain Region, mail a check or money order to Area 33 Special Olympics, Betsy Edmond, 320 Eldorado Circle, Seymour, TN 37865. Information about the Smoky Mountain Region's chapter is available on Facebook or at 865-216-5241. Information about Special Olympics Tennessee can be found at www.specialolympicstn.org or 615-329-1375.
Contact Juli at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @NeilWatsonJ.