May 22, 2009

Ahough I have a sister who once competed in the Virginia Special Olympics, I had never participated either as a spectator or a helper. On April 15, 2009, Alyn Judkins, Benjy Brown, and I were volunteers working with Alyn’s son, Peyton, who was a participant in the Special Olympics. Peyton was participating along with many other students from his school Hidden Treasures.  

As all of the athletes needed a hearty breakfast before the competition began so did we. Our trainer suggested our nutritional needs would be met with the number one special at Chick-Fil-A. After breakfast we arrived at Furman University, located Peyton’s school group, and waited for the ceremony to begin. All athletes paraded into the stadium, and each school was announced as they made their way past the podium. The national anthem was proudly sung by one of the athletes, and the torch made its way around the track carried by participants. At last the Olympic flame was burning; it was time for the games to begin.

Peyton’s first competition was the 50 meter run. Peyton ran as hard as he could and won a blue ribbon for a fourth place finish. After a snack and some relaxation, we made our way to Peyton’s second event – the softball throw. Peyton had a secret weapon up his sleeve. Peyton’s older brother, Andrew, is a top notch baseball player, and he and Peyton often practice throwing in the back yard. Several participants took their turn before Peyton stepped up to the line. Peyton surpassed his competition’s efforts. Peyton proudly walked away with the gold; he won first place in his group. After the events were over it was time for the champ to have his victory lunch – Mickey D’s four piece nugget combo – while sporting his gold medal around his neck.

The Special Olympics is a great opportunity for children and adults with special needs to feel extra special at least for a day. Everyone cheered for everyone. Fourth place was as exciting as first place. What mattered in the end was the tremendous effort put forth by all. It was a good day for me to count my blessings. Next year if you choose not to participate as a helper at least go watch and cheer from the stands you will have a great day watching the athletes have a great day.

Rick Nelson