If you like events steeped in positive energy, good sportsmanship and embracing camaraderie accented by resounding cheers from adoring fans, then plan to be at the 2019 Kershaw County Special Olympics on April 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Camden Military Academy (CMA), 520 U.S. 1 North in east Camden.
Kershaw County Special Olympics is a division of Special Olympics South Carolina, in turn a division of the vast network that comprises Special Olympics. Founded in the 1960s, Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Today, it provides year-round training and hosts more than 100,000 local, national and regional competitions for some 5 million athletes in 172 countries.
As in past years, Special Olympics will kick off with a police-escorted school bus caravan filled with boisterous young county athletes bound for the academy. If you want to join them, plan to meet at the Springdale Plaza/Belk parking lot on West DeKalb Street at 8:30 a.m. Or, you may want to position yourself at the Camden IGA on U.S. 1 North in east Camden at 8:45 a.m. and follow the Torch Run, which ends with the lighting of the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony at 9:15 a.m.
Before the games start, this year’s “Super Heroes” will recite the Special Olympics Athlete Oath written by Eunice Shriver, sister of President John F. Kenney, who, inspired by her mentally challenged sister and founded Special Olympics: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
This year’s games will feature more than 325 students from 31 Kershaw County School District classes plus special ed students and about 35 adults athletes from The Kershaw Center/Kershaw County Board of Special Disabilities and Needs. Those in need of assistance while competing or getting from station to station will be assigned “participant buddies” -- always coveted volunteer appointments by students chosen from the various schools.
Athletes ages 8-21 will compete in two games. Choices include a 50 and 100-meter run, 100-meter walk and a softball or tennis ball throw (best of three tosses). Events offered for athletes requiring assistance include a 50-meter assisted wheelchair race, 50-meter walker race, ramp assisted bowling ball toss, and a technically assisted ball toss.
Fun, challenging games for young athletes ages 3-7 will be held in the CMA gym under the supervision of Lugoff-Elgin LEAP students. New this year will be “The Zone” manned by Midway JROTC students across the street at the academy’s baseball field. Earmarked for those students who are not competing as well as visiting children, games offered include Hula Wars, Bean Bag Throw and Ring Toss, Dribble Drill, Golf Game and bowling.
Wagon rides provided by Billy Smith, face painting, bounce houses, and games, activities and handouts from various event vendors will be available, as will free Sno Cones from the Camden Fire Department.
Ending the day will be the annual Dance Off and Awards Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Coveted first-, second- and third-place heat ribbons will be awarded winners and all athletes will receive participation ribbons and event T-shirts. The event’s donors, sponsors, in-kind sponsors and volunteers will also be recognized, especially CMA, which always provide the perfect setting and a cadre of enthusiastic cadets.
Each year the event’s planning committee hosts two competitions for secondary and elementary school students to design artwork for the annual T-shirt and program cover. This year’s winners are: T-shirt, Midway 5th Grader Sarah Clair Rhyne; and program, Gracelyn Horton, Stover 8th Grader. Each will receive a $100 award, compliments of the Camden Police Department. This year’s engaging poster design was the created by The Kershaw Center athletes.
April 26 -- or the rain date of May 3 -- will be a great day for Kershaw County’s “Super Heroes!” For those unable to attend, supporting future Kershaw County Special Olympics competitions can be done by writing a check payable to Special Olympics and mailing it to Dawn Carnell, 2187 Tickle Hill Road, Camden, SC 29020.