COVINGTON -- Newton County Special Olympics will return next week to celebrate student and adult athletes.
After kicking off with a parade and opening ceremonies on Monday, track and field events will continue throughout the week until closing ceremonies on Friday.
The community is invited to come out to the parade and opening ceremonies Monday morning.
The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Sharp Learning Center and continue down Newton Drive to the Newton County Board of Education and the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett, where students will be waiting with encouraging signs for the athletes. The parade will continue around the Covington Square in front of Amici's and the lofts and back to Sharp.
"The students enjoy the citizens that come out to watch the parade go by and cheer for them," said Lynda Reagan, the physical therapist for the Newton County School System and one of the event promotors. "It makes them feel special and important."
The grand marshal of the parade is Debbie Allen, a longtime volunteer with Newton County Special Olympics who is retiring from Cousins after 31 years; the honorary grand marshal will be Wilda Serenko, also a Cousins teacher who taught adaptive physical education in Newton County for many years.
Opening ceremonies are scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday on Sharp field and will include Newton County Board of Education members as openers of the ceremonies and the athletes running with the torch, which was used in the national Olympics.
Track and field events are scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Sharp Field with elementary school athletes on Tuesday and middle and high school and adult athletes on Wednesday.
"The events are things they have worked on preparing for all throughout the year," Reagan said. "They see their hard work paying off."
Close to 500 student athletes will participate in this year's events, and more than 500 volunteers will help out over the week. Middle and high school students from various school clubs, the Covington Academy and the theme school will serve as buddies for the athletes, and adults from clubs around the county, Bard and other individuals will help run stations, with first aid and being cheerleaders for the athletes.
Reagan said having a lot of parental and community involvement at the events are important to the organization.
"You want to burst into happy tears because it's so inspiring," she said. "It's so motivating for everyone to come and see."
Closing ceremonies are scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Sharp field.
It will feature local musician April Allen singing, as well as Mike "Mr. Krunk" Sellers, a Newton High School graduate, rapping and a celebration with the athletes.
Newton County Special Olympics began in 1975.