James Shipma graphic
Assistant News Editor
Starting May 18, Troy University will host the Special Olympics Alabama State Summer Games for the 12th year in a row, according to Herbert Reeves, the dean of student services at Troy.
With the theme “The Sky is the Limit,” qualified athletes with physical or mental disabilities will compete on Saturday in a variety of events including track and field, equestrian, paddle boards and more.
Check-ins will begin on Friday afternoon, and athletes can participate in the Healthy Athletes program, an opportunity for free dental, hearing and vision checks.
The opening ceremonies will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“It’s very similar … to what you see for the regular Olympics,” Reeves said. “The delegations come marching in; they carry their banner from their respective county or school.”
The week of the Special Olympics, police officers across the state will ceremonially run from North Alabama, carrying the torch that will light the cauldron and mark the opening of the games.
“Some of the things they do, I’m not sure that I could definitely do,” Reeves said. “They’re very seriously-minded athletes when they come to compete.”
Most events will take place on Troy’s campus and in the Troy community, but cycling will be held at the Peanut Festival grounds in Dothan, and bowling will take place at Brunswick Zone in Montgomery.
Peighton Carpenter, a student at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College who has volunteered at the Special Olympics at Troy for the past four years, expressed excitement for the upcoming games.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed walking the participants to their events, preparing their plates at lunch and keeping them hydrated,” she said. “Special Olympics is a great organization that I plan to be a part of for the rest of my life.”
The athletes competing at Troy have all qualified in their respective counties. Competing at Troy gives them an opportunity to compete nationally in Seattle.
“That’s really a treat for (those that qualify for national games) to go to Seattle,” Reeves said. “A lot of these athletes would never travel outside of the state of Alabama if it weren’t for the Special Olympics.”
Saturday night, participants are invited to a Troy versus University of South Alabama baseball game honoring the athletes of the Special Olympics. A special athlete will sing the National Anthem, and another will throw the first pitch. The game will be concluded with a fireworks show.
On Sunday morning, the Special Olympics baseball team will play with the Troy baseball team on Riddle-Pace Field. The closing ceremonies will be held afterward, with a special time of remembrance for athletes lost in the past year.
“It’s a great time,” Reeves said. “Everybody’s a winner during the Special Olympics.
“They may not get a gold medal, but they get a participation ribbon.”
Carpenter said she has gained a “greater understanding of humans and a genuine love for each and every participant.”
“The participants don’t judge others, and that’s exactly how everyone should act,” she said. “My view on life is completely different now.”
For more information or to volunteer, contact the Troy University student services office at 334-670-3203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.