Let the games begin: Special Olympics return to Southside

Published 3:21 pm Monday, April 15, 2024

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Smiles, laughter and the sounds of high-fives filled the Southside High School football field Monday morning as Beaufort-Hyde Special Olympics athletes competed in the spring games in Chocowinity.

At shortly after 10 a.m. local North Carolina state troopers Anthony Autry and Braedon Burbage, accompanied by several athletes, ran a 400-meter lap with the Special Olympics torch, before lighting the ceremonial flame that signified the start of the competition.

130 Olympians from grader-schoolers to grownups from 10 Beaufort County schools, Washington Montessori Public Charter School, Community Athletes, Life, Inc. and Lifequest vied for ribbons in the 25-meter walk, tennis ball throw, standing long jump, football throw, 100-meter run, javelin and other events on a sun-drenched day made for being outside.

“We have twice as many athletes out here than we did last year and the conditions are perfect for a fun event,” Beaufort-Hyde Special Olympics local coordinator Kathy Newman said. “We have over 300 volunteers ready to assist. It’s our athletes day to shine and to compete on their level.”

Athletes from several sports at Southside were part of the volunteer effort and football coach Jeff Carrow said it meant more to them than just getting a break from being in class.

“We send our athletes to Chocowinity Primary and Chocowinity Middle School to work with the younger kids a couple of times a year and this event is also part of our community outreach,” Carrow said. “It teaches our kids how to interact with people who handle challenges greater than their own and it shows them that helping people is a good thing.”

Southside hosted the event for the second straight year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a three-year hiatus. Washington High School hosted the event previously.

“Southside is a great setting for our event and it takes a joint effort from a lot of different groups to make it happen,” Newman said. “It makes it all worth it to see our athletes smiling and having fun.”