Special Olympics’ track and field event attracts hundreds







Timothy Collier of Stone Mountain said he is proud of his son, a participant in the Special Olympics’ track and field events April 3.

“It makes me proud to come out here and see him participate with his peers,” Collier said. “My son is autistic and him following directions is sometimes…a task, but for him to be able to come out here and do the events is huge.”

Jalen Collier, 9, a student at E. L. Miller Elementary School, has been participating in Special Olympics since he was 3, said his father.

“It gives him a sense of normalcy to be able to come out because right now he doesn’t participate in team sports,” Collier said. “He gets that physical activity that he needs.

“Some people think it’s simple, but for him to be able to run 50 meters or throw a softball, that’s a great feat for him, Collier said

Before Jalen left his school that morning to attend the event, the school had a big send-off for him, Collier said.

“All the kids lined the halls and they did a torch walk at school,” Collier said. “To come out here to see the high school kids volunteering and working with the special education students is also very big.”

One volunteer, Kenneth Stodghill, a 16-year-old junior at Cedar Grove High School, helped some of the participants run the various races.

“I’m just volunteering, trying to make sure they act good, are having fun and having a great time,” Stodghill said. “It’s great. You get to interact with the kids. It brings back memories of when you were a kid and used to run around. You’re kind of bonding with them.”

Stodghill said that although the participants may have various disabilities, the event gave them an encouraging message: “You can go beyond where you are now.”

Nina G., a student at Arabia Mountain High School, said she volunteered at the event to give back and see the happy children.

“Even though it’s something so little they enjoy it so much,” she said about the soap bubbles she was blowing into the wind for the children to play with. “Even something so small as bubbles, they seem so happy about it.”

Sabirah Rashad of Stone Mountain brought her 8-year-old daughter, Surayyah Elliot, to the Special Olympics for the first time.

“I know I’m going to continue to put her in [the event] in the years to come,” Rashad said. “This is very exciting and it’s good for exercise.

“I like seeing the kids come out and compete against each other and seeing the enjoyment on their faces,” Rashad said.

Rashad said Special Olympics has benefits for parents, too.

“It helps a lot to have our kids involved in an activity like this,” Rashad said. “We can meet other parents and have play dates and work together and put our kids in all different types of activities. We can bond together and support each other. The more support, the better.”

Andrea Smith of Stone Mountain said this was the fifth year her son, 10-year-old Brandon Glass, has participated in Special Olympics.

“I like everything about it,” she said. “I just like coming to see my son participate. I like the encouragement they offer to the students to achieve.”

Smith said her son, who was participating in the 25-yard dash, benefits socially. “He gets a chance to interact with the other children from the other schools.

“This is a chance for the children with disabilities to participate in fun, interactive activities like the rest of the children,” Smith said.



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