Nearly 400 Special Olympics athletes from across Arkansas competed at the 2012 meet. Ozarks student-athletes were just 100 of the 600 volunteers that helped make the meet possible. Some Ozarks student-athletes cheered on the competitors or assisted with the staging areas, running errands, or helping in running the events.
"I really enjoyed interacting with the athletes," said freshmen baseball player Matt Piker. "It gives us an opportunity to give back to the community and to enjoy something with people that don’t often get to enjoy what we enjoy."
The events included running at various distances - including the 1,500-meter - and field competitions including adaptive sports like the popular softball throw.
Freshmen baseball player Alex Rodriquez brought smiles and laughter to the athletes with his enthusiasm during the softball throw.
"I really enjoyed being able to help them do things that we get to do on a daily basis," he said. "Being a baseball player, throwing is an everyday thing to us. Seeing them have so much joy in throwing something that we take for granted is really cool."
Ozarks student-athletes have had a long-tradition of helping with area Special Olympics events. The women’s softball team has helped with a softball tournament the last several years and the women’s basketball program has assisted with basketball tournaments in the past.
"We have events year around for all the competitors," said Special Olympics Area Director Jerry Bridges. "We want the athletes to improve their health and let the communities see these athletes can compete. We will hold events for the next two years in Clarksville."
Special Olympics Arkansas provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic type sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. The Special Olympics motto is: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
By Kaitlyn Williams, Student Assistant for Sports Information