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More than 5,000 athletes competing in Special Olympics Oklahoma games that end Friday

Daily Oklahoman - 5/18/2019

May 18-- May 18--STILLWATER -- The teams from Guthrie rode into town with plenty of color and style.

Guthrie Schools Special Olympics Oklahoma teams were escorted from Guthrie to Stillwater on Wednesday for the 50th anniversary of the games in the state. The games ended Friday at a number of sites around town.

For Laura Benham, a special education teacher at Guthrie Upper Elementary School, it was her 26th trip to Stillwater for the games. It was the 36th year for the games to be there.

When the teams left Guthrie on Wednesday, they were escorted by Guthrie police officers and the Territorial Riders motorcycle club.

"We had a huge send-off from our school. It was really exciting," Benham said.

Guthrie students Grace Thormodsgard, 12, and Ariel King, 12, both sixth-graders, took gold medals in the 25-meter partner walk event. Thormodsgard walked with her mother, Donna Thormodsgard. Ariel King walked with partner Molly McCabe.

The girls were two of 5,504 athletes who competed in the games, said Paige Martin, Special Olympics Oklahoma spokeswoman.

Hundreds of volunteers helped organize and run the events that included bowling, bocce, softball, powerlifting, track and field, and other sports.

Benham said the opening ceremony Wednesday night in Gallagher Iba Arena was a "thrill for the athletes who saw indoor fireworks and police officers rappel from the ceiling."

She said the event helps raise awareness for those who live with different abilities.

"Special Olympics has become a huge movement," Benham said. "We already have so many participants in Oklahoma, and you are seeing more of our students in classrooms want to be part of our teams. There is more awareness and more inclusion with the other students."

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