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Special Olympics all about the fun for athletes
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Chase Phagan, left, looks back Friday to see how close Bricio Marban is behind him during one of the heats of the 400-meter run during the Special Olympics at East Hall Community Center. - photo by Tom Reed

Schools from 13 counties traveled Friday to East Hall Community Center to participate in the Special Olympics.

It’s an event that provides students with intellectual disabilities an arena to compete in athletic events.

“They look forward to this all year,” said Katrina Holcomb, a special education paraprofessional at Spout Springs Elementary School.

“They’ve been practicing. We get a lot of recognition at school.”

Each school’s team came prepared for a selected event such as soccer skills, long jump, shot put or the 100-meter dash.

Spout Springs was ready to compete in the soccer skills event, which includes dribbling, kicking and shooting a soccer ball.

Friday’s games were a collaboration between Hall County Special Olympics and the Area 2 Special Olympics, which includes schools from Dawson, Lumpkin and Stephens counties, among others.

Jeff Dickerson, one of the event’s organizers, said the spirit of the event is for everyone to feel like a winner.

“It’s just the idea of coming together for the games,” Dickerson said. “Everybody gets an award.”

Special Olympics Area 2 Chairman Wayne Neck said there were about 200 athletes at Friday’s event.

They ranged in age from kindergartners in the Young Athletes Association to those 22 and older in the Masters Division.

Dickerson said everyone is a good sport and goes out to have fun.

“Everybody smiles,” Dickerson said. “The world could learn a lot from these kids.”

Tonya Ewing said she heard about Special Olympics for the first time this year when a teacher at Lula Elementary School suggested her son compete.

“We’ve been real excited ever since we heard about it,” Ewing said. “He’ll be participating in a little bit of everything.”

Ewing’s sister-in-law Tracy Gibson also was there to show her support.

“I’m excited for all the kids, but especially for my nephew,” Gibson said. “I just think it’s great that they do things like this.”

Gigi Clayton and her family came out to the Special Olympics to cheer on her son, Ryan.

She said it is something their family looks forward to every year.

“To see how proud he is and the look on his face,” Clayton said. “He gets his ribbon and it’s so worth it.”

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