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Special Olympics games kickoff Friday

The Pike County Team Special Olympics Local Games will be held Friday, April 30 at the Jesse H. Colley Track at Troy University with between 45 and 50 local athletes participating.

The opening ceremony will be at 9 a.m. with the Parade of Athletes and remarks by Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford. The Games will begin immediately following the ceremony with awards presented at 11 a.m.

“Our Pike County team first participated in the Special Olympics Local Games in 2007 and we had three participants,” said Meredith Welch, a team organizer. “Participation has grown continually, and we are excited to have 45-plus athletes to compete this year.”

Special Olympians from Troy City Schools, the elementary and high schools at Goshen and Pike County, Banks Schools, East Central Mental Health and from within the community will participate.

The Pike County Team Special Olympics Local Games will be a preliminary event for the Alabama Special Olympics to be held at Troy University May 14-16.

“The athletes who compete in the local event will be eligible to compete in the state games,” Welch said. “To qualify for the state games, athletes must have a certain number of practice hours and participate in a preliminary event.”

The local Games will feature track and field events, weight lifting, golf and swimming.

“The Special Olympics events are great opportunities for our local athletes,” Welch said. “The Games give them a chance to be in a social environment with others and to compete in events they enjoy. But it doesn’t matter what these Special Olympians do or how they do, they are winners.”

Welch said her son looks forward to the Special Olympics each year and that it doesn’t matter whether he swims across the pool in 25 seconds or five minutes, he has a sense of accomplishment that he doesn’t often get in everyday life. It’s that way with the other local Special Olympians, too.

“When these Special Olympians get those gold medals, it does them the world of good,” Welch said. “It’s wonderful for them to have the opportunity to compete and to enjoy the fellowship of others in this special setting.

The Troy Police Department and several sororities at Troy University will assist with the games. Welch said their help is essential to the success of the local Games and is greatly appreciated.

“Because the Pike County Team Special Olympics Local Games are held in the morning on a workday, many people can’t attend,” Welch said. “But, it would really be an encouragement to these athletes to have someone cheering for them. So, we invite anyone who can to come and share this special time with us.”