An Olympian send-off

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

A high-spirited crowd gathered around the front steps of Selma City Hall Thursday morning to send-off four area athletes who will compete in the first ever Special Olympics USA National Games in Ames, Iowa July 2-7.

Cahaba Center For Mental Health Executive Director Patricia Martin proudly announced Selma residents Donna Michelle Barrett and Myron Leverett, Russell Dupree of Marion and Sharilene Norfleet of Uniontown will fly out of Montgomery July 1 to represent Alabama’s Black Belt on the Iowa State University campus, the site of this year’s games.

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Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. extended his thanks to the Cahaba Center staff for a job well done. A long-time supporter of Cahaba Center’s Special Olympic Games, Perkins described the event as one of Selma’s “greatest moments” and encouraged community support.

“We really appreciate what you do,” Perkins said. “I’d also like to give a special thanks to (Special Olympics Coach Floyd Sanders) for working with the Olympians.”

“You pulled it off Coach! Bring back the gold!”

On behalf of the City of Selma, Perkins presented Barrett, 32, and Leverett, 31, with two decorative pins, one featuring the city’s logo and the other depicting the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Perkins asked the Olympians to serve as ambassadors of the city throughout the games, “bridging the community with communities outside our reach.”

Following Perkins, Mayor Anthony Long of Marion also said a few words and praised native son Dupree, 43.

“In a great society we have so many negatives, but this is truly a positive,” he said.

Cynthia Maddox, assistant to Uniontown Mayor Phillip White, presented Norfleet, 42, with a gift basket and wished her well and advised her to have a great time. White was unable to attend the ceremony due to a family emergency.

Coach Sanders said the athletes have been training for one year since learning of their Olympic fates.

Barrett will compete in the 50-meter dash and softball throw.

Leverett will compete in the 100 and 200-meter dash.

Lastly, Norfleet and Dupree will compete in the 400-meter walk and shotput.

Of the 3,000 athletes competing in the games, 75 are from Alabama.

Sanders said the four are experiencing a myriad of emotions, but excitement outweighs them all.

“This is a big venture for them,” Sanders said. “This is the biggest thing that has ever happened in their lives.”

For those interested in watching the games on television, the Cahaba Center is currently in talks with area television stations to obtain a special feed for Selma, Martin said.