Athens City Schools hosted the 2017 Athens-Limestone County Special Olympics at Athens High School on Friday, April 7. This was the fourth year that Athens City Schools has had the privilege of hosting this truly special event.
Special Olympics is a community wide event for everyone no matter their mobility or age. Over 150 athletes came from Athens and Limestone County to participate in track and field events. Their ages range from eight years old to adult, all with special needs. At the 2016 Special Olympics in Athens, there was one athlete in his 60s.
The official website of the Special Olympics says that through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. Special Olympics athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment on the playing field and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.
This year’s event was organized by Dr. Jessica Lynn, Exceptional Services Coordinator for Athens City Schools along with her partners from Limestone County: Annie Granger, Jessica Tyler and Terra Hill.
“This is a special day when our schools and community come together to support children and adults with special abilities.” – Dr. Jessica Lynn
Special Olympics Awareness Run began at noon on Thursday, April 6. This special group of approximately 20 community members run from noon on Thursday, continuing all
night long, stopping at each school and finishing at the AHS stadium at 7:30 a.m. Friday morning the day of the event. These runners then join with the athletes and make one lap around the stadium while bearing a torch to kick off the games.
Special Olympics is the leading voice in raising awareness about the abilities of people with special needs. Through the medium of sports, this event showcases the skills and dignity of these special athletes. This event also serves to bring together the Athens community to see and take part in the transformative power of sports. Our dedicated special needs families, faculty and staff know the odds these students must overcome. They face barriers every single day. ACS believes this event is a powerful tool affecting change in the perceptions people hold about special needs students.
This day is a unique opportunity to allow these students to shine. Their stories and successes inspire and touch all who participate. The ACS family came together to support this event. The AHS Student Council Association (SCA) students served as “buddies” to the athletes. They were paired with an athlete and they spent the day helping them to events and cheering them on. Other participants from TRAIL and Cowart Elementary Lighthouse Team were on-hand to serve and support the athletes and the event.
“It is a precious sight to see these children light up on their special day.” – Dr. Jessica Lynn
Dr. Lynn shared what Special Olympics means to her saying, “Many cheers and happy tears are shared on this day to see the athletes giving it all they’ve got and being so proud of the ribbons they win and what they can accomplish! Personally, it is a very humbling, yet inspiring experience. It reaffirms why I decided to work with children with special needs and their families. I believe all children are born with special, unique gifts and for a specific purpose. As special educators, it is our job to make sure others see their special abilities and allow them to shine.”
Many cheers, happy tears filled the stadium. To the tremendous student athletes who were brave in the attempt, you are all champions in our hearts.