The Salem High School gymnasium was filled with athletic victories Wednesday, April 18, as nearly 200 elementary, middle and high school and adult athletes competed in the Special Olympics Rockdale's Seventh Annual Track and Field Event.
Rockdale County Therapeutic and Recreational Services Manager Tom McPike said, "We're happy to showcase the talents of our athletes of all ages and to promote socialization and friendships."
Though the event was moved indoors due to rain, the show went on beginning with Special Olympics and Salem student volunteers forming a cheer tunnel as the athletes entered the gym. Next, Salem's ROTC presented the colors and special athletes RCHS's Suzanna Ivey and SHS's Ashton Jones led the Pledge of Allegiance and Special Olympics Oath.
Then, it was on as the competition heated up in a 20 meter dash, ball tosses, bowling pin knockdown, and even face painting between heats.
"Their teachers and paraprofessional's excitement and enthusiasm really pumps up the kids," said RCPS Adaptive P.E. Coach Amber Sims, "For the last three weeks, the elementary and middle school athletes have been working on relay races during P.E. class - the progress is incredible."
Sims also said she couldn't have done it without the extraordinary help and support she received from Salem's Student Government association and Principal Tonya Bloodworth. "They were all over it, from organizing meetings to moving the event indoors - it took a lot of pressure off me."
The look on the children's faces as they competed and were pinned with ribbons was pure magic and contagious, by the looks on all the teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers and fans' faces who were fortunate to witness the event.
Special Olympics Rockdale Chairwoman Erika Sellers said, "That's why I'm involved - to see the look on their faces."
The long-term effects of the day's competition are immeasurable too. "Events like this lead the kids to finding community outlets to stay active, and the peer interaction is invaluable," said Sims.