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Special Olympics to celebrate local athletes

Posted: March 30, 2014 1:22 p.m.
Updated: March 31, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Special Olympics, as chairman Billy Newman explained, is a chance for athletes to have fun and for the community to come closer together. Newman and co-chair Cleatus Ray have led the organization of this annual event for the past three years. This year, it will be held April 11 at Camden Military Academy (CMA) beginning at 9 a.m.

This year’s Special Olympics will feature approximately 220 participants, Newman said. He said that adults are also invited to take part in the event, which has increased participation numbers.

Newman and Ray both emphasized their appreciation for the amount of community support they receive from the community for the Special Olympics.

“CMA is a huge benefactor,” Newman said. “(Headmaster) Col. (Eric) Boland and his staff provide everything we need. Also, the Junior Leadership of Kershaw County and all the schools provide support and volunteers each year.”

Many Kershaw County School District (KCSD) schools have pep rallies to get people ready and excited for the challenge, Newman said.

“All three high schools are sending cheerleaders out this year,” Newman said, adding that he thinks that will greatly encourage the athletes.

Some of the events that will take place include:

• Soccer kick,

• Long jump,

• Tennis and softball throws,

• 100 and 50 meter walks and runs,

• 50 meter assisted wheelchair, and

• Tailgate toss.

All athletes get ribbons and medals to celebrate their participation, and there are also competitions in place for medals too, Newman said.

“The highlight of the day is the awards ceremony and dance-off,” he said. “Last year, the kids learned (Michael Jackson’s) ‘Thriller.’ It was really a lot of fun.”

Several individuals have been instrumental throughout the years in creating and maintaining the Special Olympics, the men said. Newman and Ray said Anne Marie Taylor, a former county resident and teacher, “started a great foundation” for the program.

They also said that recent KCSD retiree Debbie Davis helped organize everything for them.

“She kept us on the up and up. She got us transportation, T-shirts. She was a tremendous help. She did so much,” Newman said.

While Newman and Ray both miss Davis, they said that KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan and the district staff have filled in after her retirement and done a good job.

“We’re very grateful to Dr. Morgan and his staff,” Newman said.

Both Newman and Ray are originally from Kershaw County and appreciate seeing the community unite to support the Special Olympics.

“We have individuals like City Councilwoman Laurie Parks and school board trustee Ron Blackmon and many school teachers and parents who contribute their time,” Newman said. “We want more people to take part in the event and come out and be spectators. We want people in the stands, cheering the athletes on. We’re hoping to expand awareness with this event. Awareness is about celebrating the athletes.”

For more information about the Kershaw County Special Olympics and to see photos from past years, visit its Facebook page.

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