• 75°

Special Olympics begin

In 2006, the shot put won her gold. Now, she is going for the gold again.

Shariline Norfleet, of Uniontown, will travel to the National Special Olympic games at the University of Nebraska on July 17-24 to compete in the shot put and 400-meter walk.

Norfleet and Bland Harris, also of Uniontown, ran in with Selma Mayor George Evans, who carried the torch, during the opening ceremonies of the 31st annual Cahaba Center Special Olympics on Wednesday.

Harris will join Norfleet at nationals. He will compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash.

“It’s a lot of fun, that’s why I keep coming,” Norfleet said. “I like to go on the trips, and it’s really fun for me.”

She estimates she has competed in the Special Olympics in Selma for more than 20 years.

Winners from Wednesday’s events will move on to the regional games in Mobile April 17. The state games will be May 14-16 at Troy University.

Events are softball throw, distance kick, shot put, and heats of walking and running for 50-meter, 100-meter, 200-meter and the 400-meter relay.

Participants practice all year long for these events and are most proud of any medals they may win.

“Their trophies are some of their most prized possessions,” said LaFon Barlow, executive director of the Cahaba Center. “If they get a Special Olympic medal, they’ll be proud of it all year long, and they’ll wear it all year long. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to show that they can compete and do things and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us. I can’t think of anything more fun. It’s my favorite day of the year.”

While adults completed the track and field events, children from local day care centers and children of the Early Intervention program at Cahaba, which works with children up to 3 years old with developmental delays, played games and activities.

“We invited them out to learn about special needs persons and to see what the Special Olympics is all about,” Barlow said. “We start real early helping to get people comfortable around everybody.”

The Special Olympics also has a swimming division and a basketball tournament. The local team won second in the state competition March 2.

Locally, the event has grown since the first games in 1979 with 10 participants. This year 125 people from Selma, Camden and Uniontown competed in the events.

The center sent four participants to nationals in 2006, and one participant to the international games in China in 2008.

The Cahaba Center cares for the intellectual well being of children and adults in Dallas, Wilcox and Perry counties with mental illness, substance abuse or intellectual disabilities.