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Dozens gather for tenth annual Special Olympics

VALLEY — A total of 48 participants from seven schools in Chambers County took part in Friday morning’s tenth annual Special Olympics inside the big gym at Valley Community Center.

Each youngster who competed experienced the thrill of victory. It wasn’t the kind of win that comes from crossing the finish line first – though many did, It was more the excitement of being in  a big competition with lots of people cheering you on, winning a medal and getting hugs from friends and family.

Participating schools included Valley High, LaFayette High, W.F. Burns Middle School, Five Points Elementary School, Eastside Elementary, Fairfax Elementary and Valley Haven School.

Events included the 50 meter run, 50 meter walk, 50 meter wheelchair walk, the 50 millimeter walk, the 100 meter run, the 100 meter walk, 200 meter run, the long jump, tennis ball throw and softball throw.

The athletes walked an opening lap inside the gym to the sounds of “We Are the Champions” by the rock group Queen.  Prior to the competition, event announcer Rusty Letson recited the mission statement and vision of the Special Olympics.

Special Olympics programs are available for athletes free of charge. People with intellectual disabilities are encouraged to join Special Olympics for the physical activity, which helps lower the rate of cardiovascular disease and obesity, among other health benefits. Also, they gain many emotional and psychological benefits, including self-confidence,social competence, building greater athletic skills and high self esteem. Exercise has also been shown to be related to a decrease in anxiety levels among people with intellectual disabilities.

Something new this year for the Chambers County Special Olympics was swimming. This portion of the competition took place earlier at the Community Center pool. Both the pool area and the gym were exceptionally loud places as the youngsters competed in a variety of events. There was lots of cheering for them on the part of classmates, family members, and teachers.

“I’m so hoarse I can hardly talk,” said Chambers County School Board Member Judy LaFollette at Friday’s event. “I can’t remember when I’ve done so much cheering and clapping.”