ELIZABETHTOWN — Anyone wanting to see a study in sportsmanship and unity need look no further than Bladen County’s own back yard.
In April, more than 100 athletes ranging from 8 years old to adulthood will take to the field for the annual Special Olympics at Elizabethtown Middle School. Far from being a winner-take-all, win-at-all-costs sporting event, the games for children and adults with development delays or disabilities encourage team-building and cooperation.
“Special Olympics are a way to let people see a whole other world,” said Tessia Williams, Data Manager for Exceptional Children at Bladen County Schools. “Until you’re next to it and work with it, you don’t know about how certain movements can set off a different behavior or why people act the way they do. It’s whole different way of life, and Special Olympics gives people a glimpse into that world.”
On Thursday, the Bladen County Special Olympics Committee met to plan this year’s games. Already in the works are committees for setup and breakdown, games, opening ceremony, and, of course, finance.
“Money is always an issue,” said Williams. “We have everything in place for different committees, and right now, we’re working on going business asking for money. If churches and to help, for instance, they can sponsor a child and buy ribbons and medals, snacks, water, and transportation if the athlete needs it.”
Several organizations have already gotten on board with the effort. Bull Shaw is donating snow cones for the athletes, and Taylor Manufacturing is providing ice. Hot dogs will come from Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, as will pork loins, drinks, and 15 volunteers.
Those 15 will be a fraction of what’s needed. Williams said they typically have around 100 volunteers for day, many of whom are high school students.
“This counts as community service, so Beta clubs or Girl Scouts or other organizations might want to come out and help for the day and fulfill some of their community service hours,” suggested Williams.
The big need, however, is money. Each athlete gets water, snacks, and hot dogs, and winners get ribbons and medals. Tents are set up, and volunteers as well as athletes get T-shirts.
“None of that is free,” said Williams.
To donate to this year’s Special Olympics, or to volunteer to help, contact Williams at 910-862-4136, or attend the next planning meeting Thursday, March 9, at 5:30 p.m. at the Board of Education.
If you or someone you know would like to participate in the games, athlete registration forms are available at the Board of Education or by calling the above number and requesting them by email. The deadline for registration and t-shirt orders is March 15, and athletes wishing to participate must have a medical exam by that time as well.
The Bladen County Special Olympics will take place Thursday, April 13, at approximately 10 a.m. at Elizabethtown Middle School.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.