By HALEY ATKINSON
C-I (Camden, S.C.) Localife editor
Friday was an important day for more than 200 athletes from 20 classes in schools across the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) as participants and spectators gathered at Camden Military Academy (CMA) to celebrate the Kershaw County Special Olympics (KCSO).
Opening ceremonies kicked off at 9 a.m. and saw CMA cadets and band members marching onto the field in two lines to announce and welcome the athletes and their families. Waving school banners and flags, smiling and cheering for themselves and each other, the athletes entered the ceremony in a group "march on."
Following the opening ceremonies, athletes participated in events throughout the day including a walk/run, tennis ball throw, softball throw, standing long jump and soccer kick. Other outdoor games, face painting and a dance off were part of the festivities also.
An awards ceremony concluded the day’s events. The public was invited to all events and ceremonies. The KCSO enjoyed a great turnout this year of friends, family and fellow students who were ready to cheer on the athletes and celebrate their accomplishments.
CMA registrar Emily Finley said the KCSO is her "favorite thing of the whole year." She said watching the athletes "do the march on onto the field is the most heartwarming" sight for her. "It’s also great to see everyone from the community come out for this," she said. "The athletes got a police escort this year and that means so much to them."
Excitement at CMA was wide-reaching, headmaster Col. Eric Boland explained.
"This is an event that our cadets look forward to every year," he said. "It is rewarding to see how supportive everyone is for this special event."
Cheerleaders came from Camden High School (CHS), North Central High School (NCHS) and Lugoff-Elgin High School to share their enthusiasm and spirit with the athletes. CHS cheerleaders Leah Ray, Mya Izzard, Kaylah Haney and Grace Smith said they were all very excited to be a part of the KCSO this year and shook their pom-poms with emphasis.
Jacob Sims, William McInvaille, Alexa Williamson and Kayla Bower, NCHS students and members of Kershaw County Junior Leadership, agreed it was an exciting day and they were happy to be part of the festivities. Williamson is also Miss Camden Teen.
The KCSO was organized by co-chairs Billy Newman and Cleatus Ray. Ray said he was very pleased with this year’s turnout. Both men emphasized their appreciation for the support of the community, the school district, the city of Camden and CMA.
Members of the KCSO steering committee, Michelle Crane, Collier Crane, Laurie Parks and Deb Gibart sold T-shirts and wristbands during the event. Parks said that not only was she "having fun" at the games, but that the KCSO "is the happiest event of the season in Kershaw County. This is the athletes’ special day and we want to do whatever we can do to help them celebrate the occasion."
The excitement and enthusiasm was also felt by KCSD employees, as teachers, board members and district personnel were also present and cheering.
"Special Olympics is a wonderful event for our students and the community," KCSD Superintendant Dr. Frank Morgan said. "All of these students are true winners."
See more photos from the Special Olympics on Localife, page 6.