Shelby County Schools Special Olympians to compete at Oliver Park
By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist
Valinda Pate, an adaptive physical education teacher for Shelby County Schools, is coordinating this year’s annual Special Olympic track and field event.
For more than 15 years the event has been held in Alabaster, but this year’s event will take place at Oliver Park in Calera on March 30. Pate said the city of Calera has partnered with Special Olympics to help host the event.
“We are excited about this transition,” Pate said. “We have enjoyed our time in Alabaster, but when the opportunity came about to change to a new location we decided to give it a try. The city of Calera has been wonderful to work with and has been willing to work extra hard to make the change a success.”
Opening ceremonies will begin around 9 a.m. Participants in the events live in Shelby County and are between the ages of 8 and 21.
Approximately 200 participants will compete in events such as running, walking, wheelchairs and adapted bikes; field events include throwing and jumping activities.
Calera Middle School student Noah Bunn will carry the torch in the opening ceremony. Bunn feels good about carrying the torch and believes he’ll win the 50 meter dash. “I say to myself run hard, don’t stop,” he said.
Julie Webb is entering the 100 meter dash and softball throw. “I will win the ribbon because I’m good at throwing,” Webb said.
Scott Hayes is slated for the 200 meter run and softball throw. He motivates himself by saying, “I can do this, I can do this.”
Pate said more than 100 volunteers from businesses and groups will be helping to make the day meaningful and rewarding. “We truly appreciate our volunteers. Without them this day would be impossible. We have always had great volunteers who love to help and make this day special for all the kids,” she said.
Special Olympics is an organization that provides sports and recreational activities for people with mental disabilities. There are a variety of sports offered in the Shelby County branch such as bowling, golf, swimming, track and field, softball, gymnastics and bocce. Athletes compete at local events and competitions and some advance to be able to compete at state and even national competitions.
Pate said all the planning and work leading up to the event is truly rewarding. “We hope Shelby County residents will join us for this very special occasion. It’s truly a blessing to see the smiles on their faces!”
Mollie Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.