Special Olympics Georgia is looking for hundreds of volunteers to help with an event in Hall County next fall.
The state’s Fall Games are back in Hall County after a nearly 10-year absence, organization officials announced Wednesday. The move, which is for three years, is expected to attract almost 1,500 athletes, including some in Hall.
County and business leaders say the upcoming games will bring significant economic impact to the community.
“I mean the community and the volunteers were outpouring and welcoming, they were there for the athletes,” said Georgia Milton-Sheats, CEO of Special Olympics Georgia. “We just got very positive feedback from the athletes and coaches and that’s who we ask a lot because that’s who we’re doing it for.”
Special Olympics Georgia provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Minimum age is 8 years old, and there’s no maximum.
Hall County currently hosts the Special Olympics Horse Show in October and will add the Fall Games to the same weekend. Hall hosted the Fall Games from 2002 to 2004, when they moved to Albany, according to The Times archive. Dalton most recently hosted the Fall Games.
Stephen Sparks, the group’s volunteer and event manager, said between 500 and 700 people volunteered for the last Fall Games.
Sometimes volunteers come from businesses that sponsor the events or from the general community, he said. Local residents are also needed to staff the organizing committee.
The fall events are bocce, cycling, golf, softball and softball skills.
Special Olympics athlete John Burt plays basketball, which is part of the Winter Games in January. LeBron James of the Miami Heat is his favorite professional basketball player.
“Special Olympics lets me be able to watch sports and compete at the same time,” said the 17-year-old West Hall High School student. “I really enjoy being with my friends and being able to compete in the sports that I like the best.”
Athletes, coaches, families and fans visiting the county for the event are expected to contribute about $650,000 to local economy, said Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Without our superior parks and recreation facilities, Hall County would not be able to host an event like the Georgia Special Olympics,” Dickson said. “All of these events help boost our economy, but the Georgia Special Olympics is indeed special because what they bring creates a far greater impact than dollars spent in the economy.”