Appropriately held in conjunction with the annual community celebration honoring Olympian Jim Thorpe on his birthday, the Special Olympics Annual Athletics Competition was held last Saturday at the Jim Thorpe High School athletic complex.
Athletes from three different participating counties in Pennsylvania competed. They were Carbon, Luzerne, and Columbia/Montour counties.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disability.
These athletic competitions give them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympic athletes and the community.
Just prior to the Competition, the Special Olympic Athletes were all present at the nearby Jim Thorpe Mausoleum where they attended a statue dedication and a Native American tribute in honor of the 123rd birthday of the "Athlete of the 20th Century", Jim Thorpe.
Shortly after the athletes returned to the high school stadium, the JTAHS Cross Country team arrived bearing a torch which was lit with the "Flame of Hope" at the conclusion of the ceremonies at the mausoleum.
The flame from this torch was then used to light the Olympic Torch at the high school stadium officially opening the games for the Special Olympics track and field competition.
During the wide variety of track and field events, the eager Olympians put their heart and soul into each and every event and they had a ball doing so.
While the winning athletes received the traditional medals for finishing in first, second, or third place, all athletes from fourth to last received a participant's ribbon for competing in an event.
Qualifying athletes from all of Pennsylvania will complete the season on June 10, 11, and 12 during he State Summer Games competition at Penn State University.
The master of ceremonies for most of the event was Dave Rodrigues, Competition Coordinator for Special Olympics of Carbon County.
He was assisted by a number of coaches, officials, and volunteer assistants without whose time and help, the competition would not have been possible.
The Special Olympics of Carbon County is always welcoming new volunteers and coaches.
Anyone who may be interested in more information on Special Olympics and volunteering can visit their website at specialolympicscarboncounty.com.