LAURINBURG — At the stadium of Scotland High School on Tuesday, a different kind of athletic competition is planned — one where team effort reigns and smiles are plentiful on all sides, no matter the score.
From throwing to jumping and running, the about 100 local students expected at the Scotland County Special Olympics will be there for one thing: to have fun.
“These athletes shine,” said Carol Nichols, who has coordinated the event for five years. “They just shine. They’re thrilled to be out competing, they love one-on-one attention. They love to compete, they love to get their medal and to feel special, literally feel special. It’s a heart-warming day.”
Opening Ceremonies will begin at Pate Stadium at 9:30 a.m., with the games lasting until noon. The field will also offer an “Olympic Village,” complete with a magician, face painting, food and a deejay, solidifying the event as one for the entire family. A “young athlete” program will allow future athletes aged 5-7 to get a feel for the event, Nichols said.
The event has been ongoing annually for 30 years, and takes about 200 volunteers to get off the ground.
“I’ve got my volunteers but we love spectators,” she said. “We love to have the fans cheer on the athletes. … We have a great response from the community as far as support.”
Nichols began as a volunteer before stepping into her official role. She also has ties to St. Andrews University, where she works with the therapeutic horsemanship program. Though she would like to find a way to eventually incorporate equestrian events into the Special Olympics, Nichols admits she has her hands full already.
“It’s a lot of work in the three months prior to the event, but on the day of the event there’s a smile on my face,” she said.
Abbi Overfelt can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 12. Follow her on Twitter @aoinscotco.