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Date set for Special Olympics

Area 2 event to be held April 30 at Johnson High School

POSTED: April 20, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Special Olympics Georgia has been able to reschedule the Area 2 spring games after concerns that the games weren’t going to happen.

Rachel May, regional manager for Special Olympics Georgia, said the games will be held April 30 at Johnson High School in Hall County.

She said the Hall County school system as well as Hall County Parks & Leisure Services worked together, even rearranging events, to allow the games to be held at Johnson at the end of the month.

"Luckily now, Johnson High, because it is a priority to them, they’re saying they really need to make it happen, not because it’s their responsibility, but because they have a dedication to the athletes," May said.

"We’re just really excited to have the games. The athletes look forward to it. Our staff looks forward to it. We’ve got great volunteers, and we’re really happy that Hall County and Johnson High could make it happen for us. We’re really grateful."

Robert Yost, director of program services for Special Olympics of Georgia, said the organization is dedicated to making the events the best possible for athletes.

"Obviously, there was a situation that came up that wasn’t handled properly maybe by someone and the athletes should not be punished for that. Because our ultimate goal is to give them a great competition and that can still happen," Yost said Wednesday before learning that the games had been rescheduled.

May said miscommunication between herself and volunteer organizers resulted in late planning of the event, which made it difficult to find an available facility.

"It’s a tough time to make things happen outside of school events. Hall County has really worked their schedule in order to accommodate Special Olympics coming in, so they should really be commended," May said.

On Wednesday, May also wanted to clear up any misconception that she blamed Hall County Parks & Leisure or Fenton Morris, who worked with the department at the time, for any problems scheduling the event. "It wasn’t that Hall County was trying to shirk their responsibility or anything. It was really just a miscommunication. And I want to be clear that Fenton Morris did not do anything wrong, and Hall County did not do anything wrong," May said.

May said Wednesday she had believed it had been decided at a fall meeting with Morris and other representatives of Area 2 counties that Hall would be the site of the spring games, as had been the case in previous years. May said she accepts responsibility if that wasn’t understood at the time.

"I want to be clear that this wasn’t anyone passing the buck or anyone making a mistake. It just didn’t get communicated effectively, and I take full responsibility for that," May said.

Morris said he is certain no dates were set at that time for the spring game. May and Morris both said that by the time it was realized weeks ago that the games hadn’t been scheduled, it became tough to find an available venue.

Morris said Wednesday that he felt he had worked diligently to help Special Olympics find a site, despite getting notice at the end of the winter — only weeks from when the event was to be held. Morris explained that Johnson High wasn’t available on the dates first requested due to an early release date and the school’s prom. He said he even asked officials at other Hall schools if their facilities would be available and none were.

Morris and Yost said typically Special Olympics events are scheduled well in advance due to the scale of the event itself, and local groups are asked how they can help, not ordered to provide a certain facility on a certain date.

Though the Hall County school system and county parks departments often help coordinate the Area 2 spring games, it is an event held by Special Olympics Georgia each year.

Special Olympics Georgia divides the state into 18 different areas, each of which consists of several counties. There are six regional managers who each oversee three different areas. Yost said there are 23 paid Special Olympics Georgia employees; the remainder of the staff is made up of volunteers.

Yost said though each county organizes and schedules the local games, it is the ultimate responsibility of Special Olympics Georgia, through the regional managers, to schedule and help coordinate the area games.

May also wanted to clear up concerns that the Special Olympics program in Hall was in jeopardy, saying that she had received some calls.

"Our athletes train year round, throughout all sports season in different sports. Of course, those opportunities are not going anywhere," May said. "Even if the games had, unfortunately, not been able to be held, certainly their training doesn’t stop. Their local competitions don’t stop. And Hall County athletes will be attending the state summer games at Emory University at the end of next month."



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