Area 7 Special Olympics kicks off at ASU

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Special Olympics competition kicked off at the track on Arkansas State University's campus Friday morning.

Around 240 school age athletes and around 150 adults showed up to compete for the gold medal and a spot at the state competition.

Area Director for Area 7 Special Olympics, Beverly Lee, has been a part of the competition for around twenty years.

Lee says the competition is about a lot more than winning a medal.

"It's a great accomplishment for them," Lee said. "It shows them that they can do anything. And they come out here and they strive for that gold medal but they're just as happy with that bronze."

Participants competed in a number of different track events

such as walks, dashes, soft ball throw, tennis ball throw, and the running and standing long jump.

Parent Johannah Broeffle says her son Shannon has been participating in the Special Olympics for about twenty years.

"They're finding their talents and developing them," Broeffle said. "They're getting to be normal like other people. They have talents too and we want to find them and develop them."

Lee says they just wanted a chance to be treated like everyone else.

"They don't want to be treated any differently than anyone else is treated," Lee said. "They don't want special treatment. They don't want anything different than anybody else wants. They want to be loved. They want to be accepted and that's all anybody asks for."

The Special Olympics competition has been taking place over twenty years.

Last year they added a young athlete program which has grown.

"We've added the young athlete program and that's three to seven year olds," Lee said. "So, they get to come out and that is just awesome to watch these little guys. It's just amazing. And now, they have their own competition at state. Used to you had to be eight years old. But now, the little ones can go, too."

Winners will compete at the state level in May at Harding University.

For more information about the Special Olympics program, log onto their website.

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.