Superheroes soar at Games
More than 300 unique individuals from seven counties competed in athletic events and played carnival games at the 2017 Far West Region Special Olympic Games at Robbinsville High School on Friday.
The event was special from the grand Hall of Justice entryway, to the presence of the Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman and other customed superheroes, to more than 200 exceptional volunteers and more than a dozen organizations who made the games a resounding success.
“I was very excited. It went off as planned,” Graham County Schools Director of Special Programs Director Kristy Cable said. “Everyone came together and did their part. It was just a terrific day.”
Fittingly, the theme was “Within every athlete lies the courage of a superhero.”
The oldest athlete – 73-year-old Carolyn Williams – lived up to that billing. She won gold in both events she entered – tennis ball throw and 10-meter assisted walk.
The youngsters were just as courageous.
“It’s a big day for him. He enjoys the attention and all the hoopla,” Jack Grooms said as he waited for his grandson Nate Pursley to compete.
Officials handed out 184 gold medals. But everyone was a winner.
“If you put your mind to it you can do anything,” said Harley Wiggins before the 200-meter dash.
“He’s going to win both,” predicted Robbinsville High School Senior Shelby Hancock, one of more than 100 peer buddies to the athletes.
“Each athlete had a peer buddy paired with them to make sure they got to events, cheerlead them, make sure their day was great,” Cable said.
Friday was more than great, it was super, from an opening ceremony featuring local athlete Kari Orr singing the National Anthem and Hannah Styles singing What Faith Can Do, to the moment the last school bus left.
“All the kids were excited about the superheroes and getting their picture taken with Batman. That was an experience they’ll never forget,” Cable said.
Batman, aka John Buckland, who travels the country delivering educational programs about bullying and drugs, impressed young and old alike.
“Batman did more than just mix and mingle with the crowd, he actively involved himself by helping some of the athletes during their events and even gave a few ‘wheelchair’ adventure rides,” said Jim Hyde, who spent months raising funds to bring Buckland/Batman to Robbinsville.
About 300 athletes participated, including 58 Special Olympians from Graham County. Fifty-five Robbinsville children without disabilities, ages 2-7, also participated.
“We had a unified sports area for toddlers and preschoolers. They don’t actually compete,” Cable said. “This is a huge imitative in the state. We were one of the first do to it.”
And Graham County went all out.
“Our community is the root of it all,” Cable said. “Anything we needed, anything at all, they jumped in and provided it. I could not ask for a more supportive community. A lot of times we didn’t even have to ask. I’m just thankful for all the support.”
The event was supported by 80 community sponsors, 29 private sponsors (individuals and couples), nine churches, and an army of volunteers.
“Just seeing all the different athletes from different places coming to our little town to compete in different athletic events is really, really awesome,” remarked RHS student Jamie Kirl.
Next year, Cherokee County hosts the Far West Region Special Olympics.