LAURINBURG — While some participated in the Special Olympics of Scotland County for the first time, senior Ashton Byrd was going on his 12th year.
Byrd attends Christ The Cornerstone Academy and has participated in the event since he was in kindergarten. He received the Chuck Sligh Award for his dedication to the Special Olympics.
“I like coming back and seeing people I used to know and how much they’ve grown,” Byrd said.
Byrd’s mother, Kelly, was extremely happy with how the event has treated them since the beginning.
“He’s had some wonderful and amazing teachers and coaches throughout the years,” she said. “He’s always had a wonderful support system even when he went into private school, they were wonderful.”
Byrd was one of 160 Olympians to compete in the 39th annual event that was held at Pate Stadium on Monday. There were also around 300 volunteers out helping with the event as well.
Tommy Locklear, who participated in the running event, proudly wore multiple medals around his neck and made his mom wear some as well.
“It’s a day about having fun, and I get to hang out with girls,” the 14-year-old joked much to his mother’s dismay. “But I like running in the events, and it’s just a fun day.”
Locklear’s mother Jennifer says she appreciates the event because it keeps him motivated.
Special Olympics of Scotland County Coordinator Carol Nichols said that the event was important to have in the community.
“It’s wonderful to come out and having the volunteers spend time with the athletes,” Nichols said. “Being able to watch the success of the athletes and see their smiles is the best part of the day.”
One athlete, however, preferred other activities besides the sports. Six-year-old Chloe Housh loved getting her face painted and getting stuffed animals, but she did have fun at the water balloon toss where she ended up getting splashed from the balloons. Her mother Heather Flowers was appreciative of the event.
“It’s extra stuff for them to do, a lot of times they don’t get to participate in field days and so these events make them feel included,” Flowers said.
The event is sponsored mainly by United Way and through donors.
All the athletes were given medals and ribbons for participating and were treated to pizza and other fun prizes.
The event will celebrate its 40th year in 2019, and organizers say they will be thinking outside of the box and adding new events to celebrate the big number.
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171