LAURINBURG — A parade of athletes were welcomed into Pate Stadium by cheers and applause for the start of the 2017 Special Olympics of Scotland County.
The Olympians waved to fans and smiled from ear-to-ear as their respective schools were announced during the parade, which was led by the Scotland High School drumline. Athletes from all seven of the county’s elementary schools, both middle schools, and Scotland High School were in attendance.
Before the games could officially begin, identical twins Shelby and Shelton Chinn from Scotland High School ran across the field for the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic Torch. With the flame blowing in the wind, the games were underway.
Athletes were able to compete in sports ranging from basketball, long jump, and cornhole to a wheelchair race, and shot put.
Although there was competition in the air, all participants were winners. Every participant won at least one gold, silver, or bronze medal since each event feature three athletes at a time.
Along with plenty of sports, athletes were able to have loads of fun in the “Olympic Village” where there was a DJ, magician, face painter, photo booth, and an arts and crafts booth.
For Christian Brown, a Special Olympian who displayed his speed in events for the past three years, the games were about having fun.
“I won a gold medal in the 50-yard dash this year and that was my favorite part,” he said.
Brown was not alone in having a great time. Olympians could be seen wearing medals, wide eyes and huge smiles as they walked around the Olympic Village.
“I enjoy the Special Olympics, it is very fun. My favorite part is the long jump, 50-meter dash, and shot put,” said Steve Ward Jr., who participated in the games and walked away with two silver medals. “It is a fun day to come out and enjoy it with friends, family, and teachers.
In total, 164 athletes, ages eight to adulthood, participated in this year’s Special Olympics and were helped by more 250 volunteers from the community.
“I think the reason I do it is because of the athletes,” said Nichols. “To see those smiles and to know how happy and special this truly makes them feel. They are so proud of their medals, it’s why we do it and are grateful they can come out here and enjoy their special day.”
Prior to the start of the day’s events, the Scotland High School ROTC presented the colors, SHS graduate Hannah Chavis played the National Anthem on the bagpipe before Hannah Gilmour sang the National Anthem.
Long-time Special Olympics volunteer Julian Butler then presented SHS senior Nicolas Ring with the Chuck Sligh Award, which is given to an individual who embodies a can-do attitude. Ring has participated in the Special Olympics for the last 12 years.
Butler then presented an award that was named after him to the voice of Friday night football in Scotland County — Richard Massie.
“He wears many hats in Scotland County and anytime we ask him for something he always says yes,” Butler said. “This award is based not on all that Richard does, but how he does it.”
Special Olympics of Scotland County Coordinator Carol Nichols presented the final award the Special Friend Award to Kelly and Denny Bean. The Beans take it upon themselves each year to fill over 150 goodie bags for the athletes.
“Actually getting to Tuesday’s event and seeing the joy on the faces of the athletes is the highlight,” Nichols said.
Reach Nolan Gilmour 910-506-3171