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Volunteers, participants alike find joy and encouragement at Special Olympics

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The annual Iredell County Special Olympics Spring Games drew a crowd on Wednesday at South Iredell High School.

After an opening message noting how truly special everyone involved in the Games is, the lighting of the torch by the Basic Law Enforcement Training class from Mitchell Community College, the games were officially underway and ready to begin. Bowling, obstacle courses and a series of track and field activities highlighted the day. The games were open to participants of all age groups and included students at Iredell County schools as well as individuals over 22.

The field of competitors created a sea of neon orange and blue shirts as they began to spread out to their respective locations to begin their competitions. Cheers of encouragement from volunteers, participants and local supporters drifted across the field throughout the event.

Some supporters even made signs to show support.

Sygney Gregg, a 13-year-old volunteer from Mt. Mourne Middle School, held a sign that said “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

“I feel like we have to help people when we can … helping them in a way that might be helpful,” Gregg said about her volunteer experience.

These games mean different things for all who participate, much like Reece Williams who won first place in the long jump.

“It was a lot of fun… [I] train all year for this,” Reece Williams said.

He is trying to obtain 65 gold medals in honor of a family member who passed away from cancer, Elleigh Williams, a volunteer and Reece’s family member stated.

He wishes to have many gold medals much like his beloved family member did.

Other participants enjoyed the support this day brought into their lives.

“It was fun,” Karlie Cartner, a participant who came in third on the long jump said.

Cartner found the most joy in having people cheer for her and that her mom and dad were there to support her every step of the way.

Shawn Pack, another long jump award winner, expressed his love for the sport.

“I like jumping,” he said.

The Special Olympics is not only fun for the participants but the volunteers alike.

“Seeing all the special kids doing what they like … it is fun,” Taylor Sharpe, a first-year volunteer from North Middle said.

The event even included volunteers from the American Renaissance School’s second grade.

The second-graders kept the day fun and lively as they were there not only to help clean and catch balls but to play with the participants. You could find many of the second-graders helping the participants wind down by the DJ booth as they all danced to songs like Baby Shark and the Cha-Cha slide.

The Special Olympics is offered through the City of Statesville Recreation and Parks Department and is ultimately made possible with the help of volunteers.

Elleigh Williams, who has volunteered for three years, describes the event as, “a very good opportunity for helping.”

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