‘A special day’

By Keith Strange

April 21, 2014

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Special Olympics Oath

Thousands of athletes, spectators and volunteers are set to converge on Mount Airy High School on May 2, to compete in the 35th annual Special Olympics of Surry County Spring Games.

Organizers say the event will get under way with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m., and note that the annual games are special for everyone involved.

“We’re going to have representatives from the county sheriff’s office participating in the torch run for the lighting of the torch, and we’re bringing in students from the Mount Airy Middle School chorus to sing the National Anthem during opening ceremonies,” said organizer Daniel White.

Among the more nearly 300 athletes expected this year are delegations from every school in the county’s three school districts, group homes and individual participants, White said.

This year, around 300 Mount Airy High School students will be serving as “buddies,” or traditional students who work with a specific athlete throughout the day. In addition, more than 250 volunteers have donated their time to work the event, according to White.

“This is a big event, the biggest event of our year,” White, who is director of the county parks and recreation department, said.

The events include something for all skill levels, from a wheelchair roll and a 25-meter walk to the traditional running long jump and 100-meter dash.

For a second ear in a row, this year’s spring games will feature Olympic Town — a place White called a “station of fun” for the athletes.

“The Olympic Town is basically a place where the athletes can go when they’re not competing and rest and have fun,” he said, noting that organizers do everything in their power to make it a special day for competitors. “It’s probably the favorite place for the athletes, and this year we’re going to have race cars, motorcycles and the Hillbilly Shriner’s Cars, and the sheriff’s department is bringing its tactical assault vehicle to be on display.”

White said the annual spring games is one of the highlights of his year.

“Everything about the spring games is about them, not us, not the volunteers,” he said emphatically. “It’s all about the athletes and we work very hard each year to make it the best day it can ever be for them.

“It is a great day, it really is,” he added. “It takes us a year to prepare for it, but it’s an amazing day.”

White said the support shown by the city school system has been overwhelming.

“We couldn’t ask for a better partner for the spring games than the Mount Airy City Schools,” he said. “They’ve been great and a huge supporter and have really stepped up to the plate.”

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.