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Celebrating our Hometown Heroes

Richmond Register - 4/25/2019

April 25-- Apr. 25--It isn't everyday one gets a chance to a meet a real hero, but on Tuesday night at Chick-fil-A, Madison County residents could.

From 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Shane Stull and Mindy McWhorter with the Madison County Special Olympics were at Chick-fil-A for Hometown Heroes, an event that gave people the opportunity to meet local Special Olympics athletes, receive autographs and get their pictures taken with the athletes and the Chick-fil-A cow and learn more about the Special Olympics program.

Taylor Ballinger, special events director, said Special Olympics is all about inclusion and breaking down barriers through sports, which is what athletes Shane and Mindy do.

Shane and Mindy are just two individuals out of more than 1,400 athletes that compete in the Special Olympics games. But it isn't just about the work they do on the field that matters.

"Our athletes work hard on and off the field to show the world what they're capable of," Ballinger said. "Hometown Heroes is a great way for local organizations and communities to rally in support of our athletes and their hard work, and to build a more inclusive community for people with intellectual disabilities."

Chick-fil-A Hometown Heroes nights are part of the run-up to the Special Olympics Kentucky State Summer Games, which will take place May 31 to June 2 at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.

This Saturday, residents can head to Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington for the state regionals, a qualifying event for the central Kentucky area track and field athletes who are hoping to compete at the state Summer Games.

Michael Higginbotham, the track and field coach, said the Hometown Heroes event is a great idea to help make people aware about their program, and also makes his friends feel happy, too.

"It made me feel good, because it lets me know that I am raising awareness at the Hometown Heroes, and in the way, helping track and field and the Madison County Special Olympics," Higginbotham said.

Special Olympics is the world's largest program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

"People with intellectual disabilities have a lot to offer their communities, and Hometown Heroes helps to highlight their contributions," Ballinger said.

Hometown Heroes took place not only in Richmond, but in Frankfort and Georgetown. This is the sixth year for the Special Olympics Hometown Heroes promotion, and the fifth year that the event has been held at multiple locations.

For those who want to get involved, Higginbotham and Ballinger said there are plenty of ways one can do that.

"We have plenty of volunteer opportunities available, and I promise you'll never be the same once you come out and volunteer and see what an amazing experience it is working with Special Olympics athletes. Head over to SOKY.org to register today," Ballinger said.

To find out more about the Madison County Special Olympics, visit them on their Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/madisoncountysoky.

Chick-fil-A is in its seventh year as a sponsor of the State Summer Games and in its sixth as the title sponsor of the Chick-fil-A Olympic Town area at the Games. Chick-fil-A Olympic Town is an interactive festival filled with food, games and crafts, where athletes can go between their events or after their events are completed. Chick-fil-A also provides lunches for all the athletes and volunteers at the Games on the Saturday of competition.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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(c)2019 the Richmond Register (Richmond, Ky.)

Visit the Richmond Register (Richmond, Ky.) at richmondregister.com

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