By Frank Lewis
Some were warming up, some were stretching, while others were dancing to K.C. Chatfield’s music. It was the Ninth Annual Walkathon for Special Olympics, Friday at Tracy Park in Portsmouth.
“We are actually having our kickoff for the Special Olympics season, 2015-2016,” Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD) spokeswoman Lori McNelly said. “We have a lot of fun first and foremost. The individuals involved in Special Olympics have gathered pledges and sponsorships and they walk around the park fulfilling their pledges, getting funds for Special Olympics, but also just having fun.”
McNelly said the event would not be possible without the volunteers including the Portsmouth West High School Band which played the National Anthem. Also part of that volunteer team was Portsmouth Ambulance which prepared the food and employees of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.
“They are always supportive of Special Olympics and DD causes,” McNelly said. “We want to give a big thanks to all of our volunteers.”
Getting ready for competition is serious business for both the athletes and the coach.
“I do a little bit of everything,” Coach Rita Arthur said. “Mainly I teach them to play basketball and volleyball and golf and track and field. We go out there and participate throughout the county. It is the most rewarding job I have ever had.”
No one had a bigger smile on their face than Julie Monroe, superintendent.
“We raised about $2,200,” Monroe said. “We had a great turnout and that money is always put to good use for our athletes. So we look forward to another great year with all the things we do. Basketball and bowling are coming up, so that will be our next event.”
The athletes walked proudly two-by-two around the park and people cheered as they passed in their cars.
“This is huge,” McNelly said. “All year we have events going on and it’s really about them (participants). The central mission is about our individuals and Special Olympics is something that is just really fun. They get out and they play sports. They are Olympians. They are true Olympians and athletes. They’re really amazing people.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.
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