Although there are no region or state championship trophies at stake, the athletes will compete to achieve larger, more personal goals such as increased self-esteem, enhanced personal pride and the joy of success regardless of what place one finishes, said Special Olympics coordinator Kimberly Waldrop.
This marks the 12th consecutive Douglas County Special Olympics in which Waldrop, an educational evaluator with the Douglas County School System, has been involved.
She said it means as much to her and others coordinating the event as it does for the special needs participants, their parents and teachers.
“This is my favorite day of the entire school year,” Waldrop said. “This is the day we get to see these students and, in some cases, adults, with special needs perform and get excited about their achievements.”
The Special Olympics events include a 100- and 200-meter dash as well as a softball throw and other events.
“We even have a 50-yard walk for youngsters who cannot run,” Waldrop said.
The athletes range in age from 3 years to adulthood.
Although each Special Olympics athlete is a winner and will take home a ribbon for taking part, those finishing in the top five places for each event will take home an additional ribbon signifying a top five finish.
“The Special Olympics is not so much how well those taking part in a certain event do but rather it gives the participants the opportunity to socialize with their teachers and peers,” Waldrop said. “They can experience a day in which they can celebrate their achievements with others.”
Waldrop said the number of those watching the event has increased each year as Douglas County Special Olympics continues to build good relationships within the community.
Natalie Taylor, a physical education teacher at New Manchester High School who will assist the athletes during competitions, said it is during these events where special needs youngsters “get to shine.”
“This is the one day they can show off their skills, regardless of the level at which those skills lie,” Taylor said.