Smiles abundant at Special Olympics

STEUBENVILLE – Everyone was a winner at Saturday’s Special Olympics, where the smiles were as abundant as the sunshine.

Athletes from eight regional Developmental Disabilities agencies participated in various events at Harding Stadium’s practice field, including Jefferson, Belmont, Tuscarawas, Muskingum, Holmes, Harrison, Carroll and Guernsey counties.

Winners are able to move on to the state Special Olympics this summer in Columbus.

Dick Sperry has been involved in the local Special Olympics for 37 years. He has been the long standing director.

Sperry remembers a not so successful event 38 years ago and organizers came to Sperry to help put together the games. Sperry did a lot that first year. He bought the T-shirts and was a hugger.

“I’ve been here ever since. It is very hard to put this together,” he said.

Sperry said the crowds have been dwindling over the past years. He said fundraising is getting more difficult.

But there are still more than 100 volunteers that work closely with the athletes, making sure they are at events on time.

Sperry said the Special Olympics is as much about the volunteers as the athletes.

“It is a labor of love. It is something they like to do,” he said.

Ben Brown of Toronto, and an athlete on the Jefferson County team, proudly carried the torch as he led the Jefferson County team and other teams that followed in the opening ceremonies.

Members of the American Legion Post 573, Brilliant, and Post 740, Richmond, color guard participated in the playing of the national anthem.

Athletes then recited the Special Olympics creed – “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Then the organized chaos began. Bocce was already underway. Track events followed.

Trisha Huston of the Muskingum County team was the only runner in the 3,000 meter event. Her last laps were her fastest. She is visually and hearing impaired, using a white cane to walk. But she ran the solo race without the cane. Huston ran track and cross country at John Glenn High School.

Patrick Bornter and Jacob Westlake of the Wintersville United Methodist Church youth group worked as volunteers in the men’s softball throw.

“It feels good to help out people. I enjoy doing this,” Bornter said.

Westlake said the athletes put a smile on his face.

Athletes climbed the podium as their names were announced over the loud speaker. They gave each other a high five after they were presented with their medals.

They were all winners.