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EDITORIAL: Take part in something Special

Augusta Chronicle - 3/21/2019

March 21-- Mar. 21--You think March Madness is big? Or opening day for baseball? Or the Super Bowl?

None of those even come close to the Special Olympics.

But you'd know that if you've attended even one.

On Friday, the Columbia County Special Olympics will return to Greenbrier High School. Witnessing it will warm your heart. The athletes' smiles are priceless. Last year, for a few fun hours that day at Greenbrier, more than 200 special-needs students from the county's schools became Olympians.

And every year, they react exactly how Olympians would -- with joy, determination, skill and a sense of camaraderie they've missed since the last time they competed against one another. The athletes look forward to it every single year. So do their parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers.

Richmond County's Special Olympics was held last Friday at Westside High School. Valerie Mctier's granddaughter Peyton has been participating since she was in kindergarten. Next week, Peyton turns 10. We don't know what award she came away with, but her grandmother came away bursting with pride.

"Knowing that she is doing just what all the other children do," she told The Augusta Chronicle. "Knowing that she can accomplish anything she wants to do if she puts her mind to it."

Like so many noble endeavors, the Special Olympics started with an act of charity. In 1960, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver learned that parents were having difficulty finding summer camps for their children with intellectual disabilities, she did something about it. Her home became Camp Shriver for a growing number of kids, which evolved by 1968 into the first worldwide Special Olympics, in Chicago.

The games last for just a few days a year, but the work of Special Olympics is year-round in providing sports training and athletic competition. Just a few decades ago, folks with intellectual disabilities didn't have a consistent, organized opportunity to stay physically fit, and to learn the same qualities through athletic competition that can benefit any athlete.

Now, thankfully, they do.

You might have even helped fund Special Olympics. This month, members of the Knights of Columbus have stood outside some of Columbia County's busiest stores giving out Tootsie Rolls. A lot of times in return, the Knights got back something sweeter -- donations that go to Georgia Special Olympics.

Last year the Knights from St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Grovetown raised several thousand dollars that helped pay for fees, training, equipment, uniforms, awards and the Columbia County Special Olympics itself. So if you do nothing else in the way of charity, please find some spare change for these upbeat young athletes.

If you can think of other ways you'd like to volunteer, you can call Special Olympics Georgia at (770) 414-9390.

Special Olympics Georgia divides the state up into areas. Richmond and Columbia counties are two of the counties in Area 9. The regional games for athletes throughout that 12-county area will be at Fort Gordon on March 27.

Until then, opening ceremonies in Columbia County begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday. We know you might have something else on your schedule to keep you from attending. But if you don't, we urge you to go. Cheering for these wonderful competitors will make your day -- and theirs.

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(c)2019 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)

Visit The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) at chronicle.augusta.com

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