Butler County Special Olympics bring day of fun to Tiger Stadium

Published 9:45 am Monday, April 23, 2018

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A group of very special athletes took the field at Tiger Stadium Friday morning to compete in the Butler County Special Olympics.

The games began with the Greenville Police Department’s traditional torch run.

The GPD Special Response Team ran from the new department headquarters on Caldwell Street to Tiger Stadium.

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The officers carried a torch used for Special Olympics games across the state and provided by George Beaudry of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

At the stadium, in front of a large group of gathered students, the officers ran the torch onto the field as the Greenville High School ROTC presented the colors.

The excitement of the athletes was infectious as the games began, with events ranging from a sack hop to basketball, baseball toss and a fast-paced wheelchair race.

“The theme this year is, “if you are lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change,” explained Willie Thornton, special education services coordinator for the Butler County School System.

“We learn so much from them, compared to what they learn from us,” Thornton continued, “I’m talking about genuine, true pure love… [The kids] are a blessing to us, and we try to be a blessing to them.”

The Special Olympics started over 50 years ago when Eunice Kennedy Shriver (the sister of President John F. Kennedy) decided to take action after witnessing unjust treatment of disabled people.

Her first attempt was a summer day camp for young disabled people. At the time, many students’ live were being defined by their disability. The point of the camp, which later grew into the Special Olympics, was to show what they could do.

On Friday morning, Tiger Stadium filled with people looking to witness the ongoing fruits of Shriver’s vision.

The games featured representatives from almost every school in Butler County.

“It affects the children, the adults, it affects everybody. And I love the collaboration. The principals allow their students to come out like a real Olympics to watch their classmates play,” Thornton said, adding, “we just look forward to this every year, it can not come fast enough.”