Going for the gold : Shelby County Special Olympics held

When the whistle blew 8-year-old Keegan Rhodes, a student from Valley Elementary, took off running toward the finish line, a ribbon and a soda. Rhodes along with more than 130 students from across the county competed Friday in the Shelby County Special Olympics.

&8220;This was the first year he was eligible, and he&8217;s a runner,&8221; his mother, Rhonda Rhodes said. &8220;His bus driver said he hoped someone was there to catch him at the end.

We were all waiting for him to keep running.&8221; Rhodes finished second in the 50-meter assisted race with his teachers and family cheering him on. Valinda Pate, event organizer, expressed gratitude for the community&8217;s support of the student athletes. &8220;This is a very special day for our students and well worth all the work that goes into putting this day together,&8221; Pate said.

Twelve-year-old, Bobby Schilli showed off his muscle in the softball throw event. He is a home-schooled student with Our Lady of Good Counsel and has been participating in Special Olympics, at some level, since he was 4- years-old. His dad, Bob Schilli, said it&8217;s a joy to watch the satisfaction his son gets from competing. &8220;This event gives him the opportunity to demonstrate his ability to people who may not know what his abilities are,&8221; Schilli said. &8220;It also helps him maintain his selfesteem by allowing him to compete on equal level withhis peers.&8221;

Five students won the right to compete in track and field events at the state Special Olympics competition at Troy University on May 11-13. Those students are Mario Youngblood, Robby Textor and Anthony White all of Columbiana, Maurice Green of Alabaster and Ashley Traylor of Vincent. Students from the county will also compete in other events such as swimming, bowling and gymnastics