‘This is their day’

By Keith Strange

April 30, 2014

Plans are in place for this year’s 35th annual Special Olympics of Surry County Spring Games, and organizers say they can’t wait.

“The games get under way Friday,” said organizer Crystal Whitt. “We’re ready and at this point are just taking care of last-minute details.”

This year’s games, which get under way with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m., on the field at Mount Airy High School, are expected to draw hundreds of athletes and perhaps thousands of spectators, Whitt said.

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

The athletes compete in events that are designed to 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.

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 Whitt.

The event is also expected to draw local dignitaries, including Mount Airy School Superintendent Dr. Greg Little, who will welcome the crowd; county Commissioner Larry Phillips, who will offer the invocation and representatives from the Surry County Sheriff’s Office.

“The sheriff will be doing the torch run during the opening ceremony with athlete Timmy Sawyers,” said Whitt, who noted Sawyers is a well-known basketball player. “And we will have the sheriff’s office Honor Guard presenting the colors.”

For a second year 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.”

According to organizer and county parks and recreation Director Daniel White, Friday’s games promise to be one of his favorites.

“This is a big event, the biggest event of our year,” White said.

Whitt agreed.

“It’s pretty big,” she said. “We’ve spent a solid four months working to plan this because we want to make it special for the athletes. This is their day and we want it to be the best it can be — every single year.”

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