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Smiles all around

CMA, CPD cheer on Special Olympics set for April 1

Posted: March 15, 2011 4:57 p.m.
Updated: March 16, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Five years ago, former Pine Tree Hill School teacher Ann Marie Taylor wanted her special education students to be more involved with extracurricular activities.

“They weren’t involved in athletics, and I just felt that we needed something locally for them to be involved in,” she said. “So my principal at the time allowed me to use my planning period to talk to Kiwanis and the Rotary Club and other organizations like the Junior Welfare League.”

It was that year, Taylor said, that the county’s Special Olympics made its debut at Lugoff-Elgin High School with the money that was raised.

In 2006, only 35 student athletes participated in the Special Olympics.

Five years later, Taylor said, the number of students in the county who participate in the event has more than quadrupled to as many as 200 students. Athletes must attend Kershaw County School District schools or live in Kershaw County.

“Only students in Kershaw County will participate, and it’ll include pre-school students all the way up to 21-year-olds,” she said, adding that this year’s Special Olympics will be held April 1. “It’s going to be really great.”

During the past several years, Taylor said, she has been “so thankful” that Camden Military Academy has not only offered to host the Special Olympics, but also offered to provide volunteers and facilities and buy lunch for everyone who attends.

“They also purchase T-shirts for all of the participants for free. It’s so amazing,” she said. CMA Headmaster Eric Boland was instrumental in helping to provide the services, she noted.

And with the minimum cost of “$3,000 to even put on the Special Olympics,” Taylor said she’s also grateful to the Camden Police Department for the hard work it has done in recent years with coordinating fundraising initiatives.

“It all really adds up,” she said. “I mean, we provide game T-shirts for each of the athletes, and we have to provide buses and bus drivers, and gas. So we need a minimum of $3,000 to make it happen. So I’d really like to thank the Camden Police Department for helping out with that.”

This year, Taylor said, she encourages county residents to come out and cheer on the athletes as they compete in more than 10 events.

Additionally, Taylor said there will be a football or basketball clinic provided by local high schools and face painting, as well as a dance-off at the end of the day.

“The dance-off is always super fun,” she said, adding that her husband K.T. provides deejaying services. “What’s so great about the Special Olympics is that it promotes healthy lifestyle by exercising and field events. But most importantly, it helps build community and awareness about students and people with disabilities and it allows for community members to give back. And that’s really important.”

For those who wish to support this year’s Special Olympics, Taylor said donations may be sent to the Camden Police Department, and any amount would be appreciated. Donations will go toward travel expenses and the purchase of T-shirts.

The Special Olympics will begin at 9:15 a.m. April 1 on Camden Military Academy’s outdoor track.

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