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Vance County residents prepare for Special Olympics

The Daily Dispatch - 5/29/2019

May 29-- May 29--HENDERSON -- A proud North Carolina tradition will continue this weekend when more than 1,800 athletes descend onto Raleigh for the 2019 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games.

Athletes from every single North Carolina county will compete in a variety of athletic events that include bowling, powerlifting and swimming, but Vance County residents will be seeking a gold medal in volleyball skills competitions.

David Pulley has been leading Vance County athletes in Special Olympics North Carolina over the past decade, and said that he is looking forward to the weekend's festivities and seeing the hard work of his players pay off.

"It's all about helping [the athletes,]" Pulley said. "It's always great to see an athlete's face whenever they do well, but I always do whatever I can to make sure that they achieve the best they can."

Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics in 1968 with the goal of helping individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities find success in sports and physical activity.

Shriver's vision led to the first Special Olympics World Games on July 20, 1968, in Chicago, Illinois, with 1,000 athletes, but the program would gradually expand over the next 50 years to provide year-round training to 5 million athletes across 172 countries.

Six athletes from North Carolina participated in the inaugural Special Olympics World Games, which eventually led to the state hosting its first Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games in 1970 with 400 athletes. In the 49 years since that event, Special Olympics North Carolina has grown to include nearly 40,000 active participants.

Like its parent company, Special Olympics North Carolina strives to create an environment where athletes can develop physical fitness and demonstrate courage and joy while also developing long-lasting relationship skills, which Pulley feels he has accomplished during his time with the program.

Pulley, whose son David Pulley Jr. frequently competes in Special Olympics North Carolina, has had many years of experience coaching several different sports, but he said that preparation for the Summer Games is very similar to any other sporting event.

"Everything's just about the same," Pulley said. "I used to coach baseball years ago for my sons, and there honestly aren't that many differences between now and then. My main thing is to make sure these athletes feel like they are achieving, and I want to make sure that they do the best that they can."

Volleyball practices for the Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games have been taking place at the Aycock Recreation Center since March, which have involved learning basic fundamentals of the game such as serving, blocking and hitting the ball over the net.

Tuesday afternoon served as the last practice for the Vance County team, as they will depart for Raleigh to participate in the opening ceremony at PNC Arena on Friday, which will pay tribute to the 1999 Special Olympics World Games that were held in North Carolina

Pulley likes what he has seen out of the practice sessions over the past couple of months, but even though he wants to see his athletes pick up gold medals, he hopes that all of them enjoy the moment and have fun this weekend.

"We try to treat everybody just like they were anyone else," Pulley said. "Some of them need a little bit more attention than others do, but they all do well. All of them have been doing this for several years, so it's been all about going through the motions to help them remember what they need to do on Saturday."

Other than divisioning for softball and volleyball on Friday, all competitive events will begin on Saturday afternoon at venues around Raleigh, with the volleyball competitions taking place at the Triangle Volleyball Club.

The festivities will continue until Sunday, where athletes will receive awards based on their performance and hard work during the weekend.

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(c)2019 Henderson Daily Dispatch, N.C.

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