Horry County Special Olympics Spring Games have an extra edge of excitement this year for more than a thousand athletes, buddies, coaches and community volunteers with the big event moving to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans ballpark.
“We’re thrilled and our athletes are thrilled,” to have the annual competition in a professional sports venue, says spring games coordinator Lisa Brown of Little River. “We were honored that the Pelicans offered their stadium.” For many years, the games have been at Socastee High School. “This is our big event that we’re getting ready for.”
The athletes and their buddies are from 30 Horry County schools. Training and preliminary competitions (heats) are under way and on April 19 athletes will compete in a variety of track and field events for age 8 and older and over 21 categories. Young athletes, age 3 to 7, participate in age-appropriate games such as a soccer kick, tennis ball throw, noodle stretch and walk-the-dog.
Older participants have softball and tennis throws, 100-meter and 50-meter runs and long and running jumps. There are also wheelchair events and a 25-meter assisted walk. Every athlete has a peer buddy, from their schools or a community volunteer.
Buddies accompany the athletes to their events and to lunch in the ballpark. Brown has ordered 1,100 T-shirts which all athletes and their buddies receive with a meal ticket. The events are set up for 5 or 6 participants, with gold, silver and bronze medals to first, second and third place finishers and participation ribbons to others.
All athletes are heated by boys and girls with training scores recorded by teachers and coaches at the schools. For example, Brown’s son Josh is working on heats at North Myrtle Beach High School. Josh’s peer buddies are Connor Britt-Tripp and Emily Barbosa, who are with him for other school-related activities. “Connor has been in Josh’s life since third grade,” Lisa Brown said.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach is again sponsoring Olympic Town, part of the entertainment offered at the event, including a DJ, inflatables and area team mascots.
At the ballpark, events start after the lighting of the Special Olympics torch by participants in the South Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run, which starts at Socastee High School. Area 16 Special Olympics director Erik Karney, a lance corporal with the Horry County Police Department, says every law enforcement agency in the county is participating in the 7.5-mile run.
“It’s beautiful,” Lisa Brown says of the opening ceremony. “It is so exciting.” She became involved in the spring games four years ago. “I offered to help with spring games and it has just become my passion. I love to see the smiles on our athletes and their buddies.” Her husband Boyd coaches in a Special Olympics basketball program.
From the April 19 spring games in Myrtle Beach and around the state, participants will qualify to enter the S.C. Summer Games in Columbia May 6-8.
Thanks to the Pelicans, and other sponsors of the spring games and to the hundreds of peer buddies and community volunteers for supporting a great cause. “Community volunteers get so much out of this day,” Lisa Brown says, but those smiles on the athletes are the most important aspect of the Special Olympics. “Friends cheer them and it allows them the opportunity to feel like they are part of the group.”
Horry County Law Enforcement Torch Run, Socastee to ballpark
Law enforcement officers from all around Horry County will run from Socastee High School to TicketReturn.com Field for the Horry County Special Olympics Spring Games on April 19.
8 a.m. April 19 | Torch Run starts at Socastee High School, to the Pelicans’ ballpark in Myrtle Beach.
8:15 a.m. | Gates open, registration at Gate 1; Pelicans pep rally. No charge for admission.
9:45 a.m. Opening ceremony
10 a.m. | Games begin
Anyone interested in participating in the Torch Run may contact Erik Karney, 843-685-4874 or Marcus Rhodes, 843-446-5820. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com