Special Olympics fosters humanity


The Appalachian Online

Jordan Boles

More than 125 athletes will compete in the Watauga County Special Olympics on Friday at Watauga High School from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Athletes are able to participate in several events including track and field, cycling, bocce, aquatics, volleyball and softball throw. The day also includes recreational activities, such as face painting and a DJ.

The Special Olympics gives athletes with intellectual disabilities the chance to participate in Olympic sport-like events. It also gives them the opportunity to meet others, make friends and to be rewarded for their hard work. Athletes and coordinators also benefit from the experience.

Anthony White, the volunteer recruiter, is in charge of gathering and training volunteers for the event. Volunteers from all over the county come together during this time of year to make this event possible.

White said volunteers not only develop their planning skills throughout the program, but add to their sense of humanity as well.

“I hope that people will gain an understanding that even though there is mental or physical difference, these athletes are people just like us and should be treated just as equally as any other human being,” White said.

Keron Poteat, the coordinator for the Special Olympics within Watauga County, said although the event was a stressful one to plan, the athletes that participate make it worth the time spent. She said the athletes were the most appreciative group of people she has ever worked with.

Though the Special Olympics is a once-a-year event, it provides year-round sport and athletic training for both the child and adult athletes.

“The Special Olympics [gives athletes] 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,” Poteat said. “It’s more than just gaining and winning gold medals.”

Poteat said the intrinsic rewards of working with the program are amazing and make it an invaluable experience for her.

“Each and every day, I learn and gain something from my Special Olympics athletes about how to be a better person,” she said. “They are humble, gracious, appreciative, non-judgmental and inspiring. If I could be one tenth of the person that they are, I’d really be something.”

Story: Jordan Boles, Intern News Reporter