By Joseph McCain The Winston County Journal
Athletes stretched, warmed up and prepared for a day of competition on April 12 at Winston Academy. Yet these were not ordinary athletes, these were athletes with special challenges. Winston Academy hosted the Area 18 Special Olympic events recently and rewarded 96 athletes with a day of fun, smiles and sweat. “It is excellent facilities and we thank Winston Academy for their willingness to work with us,” said Becky Burkes Area 18 Special Olympics coordinator. Winston Academy not only allowed the group to use its track, football filed and other facilities but helped make the day special with a large group of volunteers including dozens of WA juniors and seniors. The students helped hold the competitions, time events and cheer on each contestant. The 96 athletes competed in 15 events such as the 50- meter run, 100-meter run, 200-meter run, softball throw, tennis ball throw, standing long jump and wheelchair races. Burkes recognized the volunteers efforts in creating a positive day and memory for the students competing and noted that the special Olympics are here for any interested person with disabilities. Those interested in learning more or getting involved in the Special Olympics may contact Burkes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Area 18 Special Olympics serves Leake, Neshoba, Attala, Choctaw, Winston, and Noxubee Counties. In the early 1960s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver became upset over the way she saw people with disabilities being treated. Her vision was a focus on sports these children were capable of participating in without dwelling on what they couldn’t do. Her vision became the Special Olympics that we know today. The U.S. Olympic Committee has even given its approval to use the word “Olympics” as a part of the name.