COVINGTON — Although rain delayed their first day's celebration, hundreds of Newton County students and staff have enjoyed several days of friendly competition and celebrating 40 years of Special Olympics this week.
"It's been great," said Pam Dew, local program coordinator, after Friday's festivities. "We've had a great week."
After track and field events at Eastside High School for elementary, middle and high school students on Tuesday and Wednesday, the students, school staff and other volunteers celebrated with a parade, torch run and awards ceremonies on Friday.
Debbie Carlisle, an NCSS employee, said for the last 10 years, Special Olympics has helped her son Bradley, who has participated in swimming and other events in DeKalb, Rockdale and now Newton County.
"It's awesome," Bradley said, adding that it has helped him in sports and making new friends. "I like Special Olympics."
Bradley, who is now 20 and attends Alcovy High School, has won gold medals and participated mainly in swimming, but also in golf, tennis, bocce, volleyball, power lifting and basketball.
"He's been steadily competing for 10 years now," Debbie said.
In 2007, Bradley competed in the national Special Olympic Games in Iowa, where he was the youngest athlete at the age of 16 and won a gold and bronze medal. This is his first year in Newton County Special Olympics, and he also participates in swimming with Rockdale Parks and Recreation.
"It's helped him grow socially so much," Debbie Carlisle said. "In Special Olympics, there are no limits."
It's also helped Bradley gain confidence in himself, his mother said.
"He trains so hard every week," she said. "It gives him a sense of accomplishment and well-being and let's him succeed in areas that he wouldn't be able to in the typical world."
It also helps her family.
"It gives us a social network that's unbelievable," Debbie Carlisle said. "From volunteering on state committees to the local Rockdale Management team, I cannot put into words the long-term effects that Special Olympics has on an individual like my son Bradley or on the family."
Special Olympics is reliant upon grants and donations to operate — the cost is about $70 per athlete per year.
To become a volunteer or donate, call Dew at 770-385-6916 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.