“I am very excited about running,” he said minutes before the event. “I have been here before and it is great to see all my old friends and compete.”
Austin and several of his classmates were able to bring home ribbons from their events. This marks the fourth consecutive year that special education teacher Joseph Williams has brought a group from the district to compete. Ten students competed in the event, which was hosted by the nonprofit SOAR.
“There are so many positive things this program does,” Williams said. “The social interaction the students receive by talking to the other students and competing against them is huge. This program helps a lot with classroom management so there’s so many ways it benefits the kids.”
Williams said weeks before the Special Olympics event his students talk about it and anticipate participating. He said it allowed the students to stay more focused on their work, knowing they would be participating in the event.
“It gives them something to look forward to and it helps them with their social and physical development,” Williams said. “There is strong support for this event at the local level and also the state level; everybody is excited about this event.”
Inelda Golden, a 2012 Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School graduate and current Technical College of the Lowcountry student, has been a volunteer at the event for the past three years. She has two brothers who have participated in the past; one participated Friday. Her brother, Guadalupe Figueroa, a freshman at RHHS, ran in the 100-meter dash.
“I have seen a difference it has made in both of my brother’s lives for them to have participated in Special Olympics,” Golden said. “All you feel here is love and encouragement and that is important for everyone who participates.”
SOAR’s mission is to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities by providing Special Olympics sports and recreation as well as programs which facilitate social interaction.
More than 400 Special Olympics athletes of all ages from Bluffton, Hilton Head, Beaufort and Jasper counties competed. This was the third time the event was held in Bluffton.
The athletes competed according to their capabilities in assisted walks, independent walks, runs, and ball throws.
Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries.
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