Olympians take the gold medal

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2005

“Hot day,” said Jerry Osborne, with a smile.

The weather was indeed warm and pleasant Wednesday as Osborne, and about 100 other participants from Dallas, Perry and Wilcox Counties competed in the 2005 Special Olympics.

Held at the Memorial Stadium, the event gave the athletes a chance to show off their skills in the softball throw, the shot-put, the 25 meter wheelchair race, the 50 meter dash, the 50 meter walk, the 400 meter run, the 200 meter run, the distance kick, and the 400 meter relay.

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“We have events that everyone can participate in, no matter if they walk or ride,” said Lafon Barlow, Cahaba Center Mental Retardation Services Director.

“You see their faces and see how much joy it gives them to be able to do something and win.”

Keith High School’s marching band led the opening ceremony parade of athletes, volunteers, and students from Head Start Centers around the county.

Wendell Felder, from Wilcox County, and Mayor James Perkins, Jr. participated in the running of the torch.

“Thank you Wendell, for allowing me the opportunity to carry the torch with you,” said Perkins.

He went on to thank the athletes, their families, and the volunteers for attending the event, and then asked everyone to recite the Special Olympics Oath.

With these formalities over, the games officially began, and the athletes concentrated on their different events.

The crowd cheered them on as they raced around the track, threw softballs and the shot put, and kicked soccer balls. Regardless of how they performed, each Olympian received plenty of support, hugs, and congratulations.

“Proud of me?” asked Osborne.

“Yes Jerry, I am proud of you,”said Barlow.

Satisfied, he went back to clapping, cheering, and encouraging the other athletes to “hustle.”

Although this was a day of fun and laughter, the participants take the Special Olympics seriously.

According to Betty Mahan, an instructor at the Cahaba Center, when the weather warms up, they begin training at Memorial Stadium.

“We do exercise (to prepare),” said Tanya Pitts. “It makes me feel good.”

When asked how long she has participated in the event, Pitts, who competed in the shot put, the 50 meter dash, and the 200 meter relay, said, “it’s been a lot of years.”

Roughly 200 volunteers were on hand to assist the Olympians.

“We have people from all different community organizations and agencies, ” said Barlow.

Students from Central Christian Academy, Dallas County High, Keith High School, Prattville Jr. High, And Morgan Academy helped out with the different events, passed out refreshments to the athletes, or simply cheered them on.

“We hope to give all the students community service hours for coming out and helping us,” said Barlow.

“I enjoy being out here,” said Antonio Atkins, a CCA senior. “I have had some good experiences.”

Other volunteers included people from the Selma-Dallas County Public Library, Civitan Alpha I, Judson College, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Four Seasons Garden Center, Wallace Community College’s Nursing program, Haynes Ambulance, Selma Fire Department, and West Central Alabama Rehabilitation Center.

“It’s great, I do it all,” said Michael Jackson, a Cahaba Center volunteer. “Any time you have volunteer work, I am there. It’s a blessing to me.”

The awards ceremony for the winners will be held after all the scores are verified. These winners will go on to compete in the Regional Special Olympics, which will be held April 16 in Mobile. The State Special Olympics will be held in Auburn on May 21 and 22.