PILOT MOUNTAIN — Special Olympics Surry County marked its 40th anniversary on Friday at East Surry High School with 268 competitors along with a multitude of volunteers, sponsors, supporters and spectators.
Anne Hollar Garner, who founded the games in 1978, only 10 years after North Carolina started Special Olympics, was on hand to celebrate the event’s 40th anniversary. She said the inaugural event had only 50 athletes.
Daniel White, Surry County Parks and Recreation, announced the introduction of a Founder’s Award named in honor of Garner, saying, “Now she gets the first one.”
Garner said that Special Olympics started at Pilot Mountain Elementary School.
“For 23 years, Special Olympics was my home. The location rotated among the high schools. Mount Airy joined us. Then Elkin joined us.”
She said the event became accredited, and athletes went on to compete at the state and national levels. During her tenure, two athletes from Surry County went on to compete in international competition, one in South Bend, Indiana, and the other in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The event had grown to 230 athletes when she handed it over to Parks and Recreation.
Another award was initiated for 2018, the Milestone Award. White presented the award to Neal Joyner and Clark Key, two athletes who have been with Special Olympics from the start, both having participated in Surry Special Olympics since the first year of its existence.
Joyner, who last year became the the first Special Olympian inducted into the Surry County Sports Hall of Fame, said, “It feels good,” in describing his thoughts on winning the Milestone Award.
Eddie Wilmoth was named Volunteer of the Year.
Ben Easter was recognized as Athlete of the Year by Nicole Hooker, Surry Special Olympics.
“He started at six years old, and was participating at the state and local level at eight,” said Hooker, adding that bocce was Ben’s favorite activity.
A moment of silence was observed for William G. Kidd, a Special Olympian from Elkin, who recently died in a fire.
East Surry High School JROTC presented the colors with Chance Casstevens carrying the United States flag and Jacob Tolley presenting the Olympic flag.
Johnathan Bowman recited the Olympic oath, “Let me win. If I can’t win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Accompanied by Pilot Mountain Chief of Police Darryl Bottoms, Surry County Sheriff Jimmy Combs and Chief Deputy Lauren Osborne, the Olympic torch was lit by Cole Akers and Eli Bruner.
Alexis Ratcliff, a 12-year-old student at Meadowview Magnet Middle School, was participating in Surry Special Olympics for the third time. As she prepared for her event, the wheelchair race, she commented on her strategy, “I do my best.”
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.