By Katie Benfield
On Thursday, the Watauga County Parks and Recreation will be hosting the 45th Annual Special Olympics Watauga County Spring Games at the Watauga High School. The event will begin at 10 a.m. with the Opening Ceremonies, and the competitions will start promptly after that at 10:30 a.m.
“Right now there will be about 140 athletes competing,” Keron J. Poteat, Special Olympics Coordinator, said. “There are 90 coaches and about 50-60 volunteers that are coming out to help.”
The games throughout the day will cover all types of sports, including track and field, bocce, softball throws, jumps, runs, and other developmental activities such as wheelchair races and bean bag tosses.
Along with this, there will also be an aquatic segment of the competition, which will take place at the Watauga County Swim Complex.
“After the opening ceremonies, those athletes that are competing in the swimming portion will leave the high school to go compete,” Poteat said. “Then they will come back for lunch and the awards ceremony.”
The games last until 2:00 p.m., with the awards being given out at the end of all of the competitions.
“We are going to have that perfect window of sunshine tomorrow during the event,” Poteat said. “I just know it!”
The athletes that are eligible to compete in the Special Olympics are anyone who is 8 years old or older.
“Our youngest is eight and the oldest is 74 years old,” Poteat said. “It’s going to be great.”
Regardless of age, these games bring every athlete involved so much joy and excitement during the day of fellowship with other athletes from around the community.
“They all really look forward to coming out to the high school every year for the games,” Poteat said. “Oh, and the spring game shirts! They’re ecstatic about that and what color the shirts are going to be.”
Along with this, the games allow these athletes to actually compete in sports and interact with others in a day of fun and excitement.
“It’s the little things that all of us take for granted,” Poteat said. “It’s the little things that bring them the most joy in the world.”
After the Spring Games, about 20-30 athletes will be going to Raleigh from June 2-4 to compete in the statewide Summer Games, alongside thousands of other Special Olympic athletes.