PITTSBURG, Kans. — Pitt State’s Carnie Smith Stadium was the site for the Southeast Kansas Special Olympics track and field events.
Today was all about the youth, ages 8 years and older, while Thursday (4/21) will be for the Adult Special Olympians.
Tuesday’s events were kicked off by the 41 year-old tradition of the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Members of the PSU and Pittsburg Police Departments — as well as the Crawford and Bourbon County Sheriff’s Offices, led the torch run to the stadium. This tradition is just one of the many ways law enforcement has actively raised funds and awareness for the Special Olympics year round.
“It’s for our athletes, so, it’s helping fund these games. It’s helping fund their lunches, it helps pay for healthy athletes. It helps pay for the equipment it takes to put on these games, so, that’s our biggest role, is to see what we can do to help our athletes,” said Lt. Chris Moore, State Director for the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
More than 280 athletes came from 15 Southeast Kansas schools to participate. Volunteers and directors say, the focus of their movement is always inclusivity.
“Well this benefits them greatly in the fact that they are included in the community, they are part of the community, they’re not on the outside, they’re not standing on the side cheering for everybody else, they’re cheering for themselves and getting that accolade themselves, so it’s really important to them. Not just with self-esteem and self-confidence, but just that inclusion aspect for the entire community,” Erin Fletcher, Director of Grants and Developments for SEK Special Olympics
Dozens of volunteers came together to help athletes one-on-one.
“The biggest part of our movement is getting our athletes out there in the community, showcasing their abilities, helping them build confidence, build team-work skills, become leaders,” said Chris Burt, COO of Special Olympics Kansas.
Athletes and their parents say they look forward to all the Special Olympic events held year round.
“It feels a lot of pleasure to me. Even my class is glad to have me out here doing all this fun-ness,” said Gary Hughes, Special Olympian.
Special Olympian Olivia Lefever says she “just wants to have fun,” and is particpating in a lot of events.
“Long jump, um, and uh, running, uh shot-put, and softball,” said Olivia.