Special celebration

Published 1:50 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006

By By Mary Allison-Lancaster
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt" is the motto each child signed before participating in the Special Olympics held Friday morning in East Brewton.
W.S. Neal High School played host for this year's Special Olympics event, which showcased 43 students from around Escambia County.
This year's event held for the first time at the East Brewton high school. In years past, the event had been held at T.R. Miller High School. However, with the new football stadium and freshly paved track, it was moved over to Neal.
Parents and friends gathered in the stadium, holding camcorders in one hand and pumping their fists in the air with excitement with the other hand.
Participants stood next to the railing, some bending waist high over the railing, in an attempt to catch a better glimpse of their classmates racing against each other in the 50-meter race and the basketball dribble race.
Suzanne Barnett, special education coordinator for Escambia County Schools, has been involved with the Special Olympics since 1993. As a special education teacher, she saw the need for children to participate in events and interact with other children.
"It gives them an opportunity to participate in an athletic event and win," Barnett said.
With rules and regulation changes, the Escambia County Special Olympics went on a hiatus in 2000.
Barnett said this is the first times games have been held since that time.
Austin Brooks, a student at W.S. Neal Elementary School, had his mother Samantha, and grandfather Vernon Ingram, watch him participate in the 50 meter run. This was his first year to participate in Special Olympics.
"We thought it'd be good for him," Samantha Brooks said. "We knew he'd have fun doing it."
Ethel McIntyre, a kindergartner at W.S. Neal Elementary School, had her mother Yolanda Brown watch her participate in the 50-meter race. Brown said the Special Olympics is a great way for her daughter to expend some energy.
"She has so much energy," Brown said. "I'll let her do it next year.
Students from Escambia County Middle and High schools, A.C. Moore, Flomaton High School, Pollard McCall and W.S. Neal elementary, middle and high school all participated in events, including the 50-meter run, 100- meter run, 50-meter basketball dribble, 10-meter walk/run, wheelchair race, Frisbee throw for distance and softball throw for distance.
Multi-handicapped students participate in adaptive events, including tennis ball throw, toss-em, squish dish throw and sand find.
The athletes were even entertained by coaches racing against each other in the basketball dribble race.
W.S. Neal High School cheerleaders and seven young men were hand-picked by special education teacher Larry Tindell.
During event changes, Tindell could be heard over the loud speaker breaking the ice – often with a knock-knock joke.
After each event, Tindell handed out individual awards, often giving high fives or bear hugs to the winners.
"Every participant receives a medal in the event they enter," Barnett said.
By the third round of events, parents could be seen wearing their child's medal they continued to participate in other events.
The Special Olympics is coordinated through volunteers. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer for next year's events should contact Suzanne Barnett at 296-0633 or by e-mail at sbarnett@escambia12.net.
Special Olympics events are held for more than 2.25 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 150 countries participate in Special Olympics.
The Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The goal of the events is to provide people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.
According to the Special Olympics national Web site, to be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, you must be at least 8 years old and be identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specially designed instruction.

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