The annual Columbia County Special Olympics comes back to Greenbrier High School this week.
Olympians from all 18 Columbia County schools – high, middle and elementary – will compete Friday for a chance to advance to the state Special Olympics games in Atlanta.
Special Olympics coordinator Debbie Seymour, an Early Childhood Education teacher at Greenbrier High, said this will be the 16th year the Columbia County games will be held at Greenbrier’s Wolf Den Stadium.
Seymour said more than 200 special needs students will compete this year. Schools Superintendent Sandra Carraway, associate superintendents, principals from all of the Columbia County schools and board of education members attend the opening ceremony each year. Also, Richard Rogers from WRDW Channel 12, will emcee again, Seymour said.
Putting on the games requires a lot of help. Four hundred high school student volunteers and over 100 adult volunteers, including parents and family members, help make the Special Olympics a success each year by partnering one-on-one with Special Olympians as “buddies” to guide them to events, cheer them on, help receive their ribbons or by running the events as timers, ball retrievers, measurers, score recorders, awards personnel and concession workers, Seymour said. Also, some students receive extra recognition by being banner carriers for their school in the opening ceremony’s Parade of Athletes, Seymour said.
Other Special Olympians might sing the National Anthem, pledge of allegiance and Special Olympics creed. Five athletes get the chance to run the Olympic torch around the field before one lights the big torch to open the games, Seymour said.
Corporate sponsors, donors and a Volunteer of the Year are recognized each year, and although each year’s event is run by the same format, Seymour said she’s excited about the contributor who’s being recognized this year.
“This year we’re going to recognize Potash Corp., which used to be Columbia Nitrogen. (The corporation) gave us a $5,000 donation and they gave us a $2,500 scholarship for every high school in the county,” Seymour said.
Seymour said it’s a lot of work to put together the Special Olympics each year, but it’s worth it.
“It’s a lot, lot, lot of work and a lot of people putting in a lot of effort, but it’s the best thing that I do all year long, it’s just so worth it,” she said.
“To get out there and see how much it means to them to be able to participate in it, (it’s) such a good thing for our high school students, too, just to give them a whole different perspective on their health and working with kids with disabilities.”