Hundreds of athletes of all ages participated in the 35th annual local spring games for the Special Olympics Friday, held at North Surry High School.
A countless number of spectators, volunteers, staff, parents, buddies, coaches, family, athletes and special guests gathered for the opening ceremony, which began at 9 a.m. Excitement filled the air and a cheer broke forth from the crowd as the emcee, David Bumgarner from WBFJ radio, welcomed everyone to the games and kicked off the march of delegations.
Surry County Commissioner R.F. “Buck” Golding welcomed everyone and said he was proud to be a part of the event. Golding introduced special guests, Paul Johnson, vice chairman of the board of commissioners, and Eddie Harris, board chair. Golding also sent a “thank you” out to Surry County Schools and North Surry High School Principal Bill Goins for hosting the event.
The Athlete of the Year award went to Timothy Lunsford, who was part of the gold winning team with Donal Carter. Carter and Lunsford won two gold medals in bowling at the national Special Olympics. Lunsford was described as a “sports fanatic” who is always enthusiastic and dedicated. He participated in not only bowling, but basketball and swimming as well.
The Volunteer of the Year award went to two individuals this year: Dorothy Joyner and Francis Early, whose “hearts are in the program” and were described as not only devoted supporters and volunteers, but parents as well, who have done “so much to help” with Special Olympics.
The crowd was entertained by an enthusiastic cheerleader team, the Honeybees. This year marks the beginning of the Honeybees cheerleaders, and they are enrolling for any Special Olympic athletes who want to take part.
The flags and colors were presented by Levi Hodgin and Grace Mauck, athletes from North Surry High School, along with the North Surry JROTC students.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Tanner D’Amico, an athlete from North Surry, and the national anthem was performed by the North Surry High School chorus, followed by the Olympic oath, read by Kaitlin Draughn, North Surry athlete. The Olympic Oath is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Bill Goins told the crowd the Special Olympics is one of his favorite events of each year. The “hat” was passed to Mount Airy High School, who will host Special Olympics next year.
A special recognition was made to the late Garry Scearce, a Surry County commissioner who passed away last year. Scearce was a supporter of Special Olympics, and his wife, Vicki, son, Corey, and daughter-in-law, Nicole, were presented with a special granite memorial in honor of Scearce and his contributions to Special Olympics, that will be placed at Fisher River Park in Dobson.
Scearce’s son, Corey, told the crowd that his father insisted on attending Special Olympics last year, even though he was not well. “He promised he would be here no matter how sick he was. He wanted to be here. He always told me that Special Olympics was an amazing program designed for athletes so they could have one day where they put everything aside — a day to be a shining star.”
After the lighting of the Olympic Torch by Dakota Hiatt, athlete from North Surry, with the help of Sheriff Graham Atkinson and officers with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, the games began.
Christopher Bowman was one of the competing athletes. He has been competing for many years, since he was in preschool in Stokes County. Bowman is now 25 years old, and his mom, Sam Bowman-Fuhrmann, said he loves Special Olympics.
Bowman-Fuhrmann is a child advocate who has worked for decades to improve the lives of those with special needs.
She said the event is a special day for all the athletes, and “any event that is a special day for them is wonderful. I had two other kids who had many special days like prom, athletics, things of that nature, but this day is all about Christopher. It is a day of celebration. All participants look forward to it and it is truly a celebration of all abilities within this community. This is the happiest group of people you will ever see who are so appreciative of anything and everything…their spirit and what they overcome makes the rest of us look at our lives differently.”
Kristy Hill Smith was also there with Christopher, and she has helped him for many years after her husband was his teacher. She even took the day off of work to be there to cheer him on. Samuel Holder has been Christopher’s Special Olympic “buddy,” described by Bowman-Fuhrmann as “Christopher’s big fan.” Holder cheered Christopher on and was right by his side to help in the long jump competition.
Special Olympics is not just for children and teenagers, adults compete as well, like Christopher Bowman. The oldest adult spotted on the field was Jonas Cassell, 71, who competed in the 25m final and the tennis ball throw.
Competitions included the developmental categories of 10m wheelchair, 25m walk, 10m assisted walk, and tennis ball throw; lead-up competitions included the 50m walk, 50m run, softball throw, and standing long jump; traditional competitions included 100m dash, running long jump, and softball throw.
Local programs and delegations involved in the games were B.H. Tharrington Primary School, Carolina Residential Services, Cedar Ridge Elementary School, Central Middle School, Dobson Elementary School, East Surry High School, Easter Seals UPC NC, Elkin Elementary School, Elkin High School, Flat Rock Elementary School, Franklin Elementary School, Gallery Group Art Studio, J. Sam Gentry Middle School, J.J. Jones Intermediate School, Lifespan of Dobson, Meadowview Middle School, Mount Airy High School, Mount Airy Middle School, Mountain Park Elementary School, North Surry High School, Peace Lily, Pilot Mountain Elementary School, Pilot Mountain Middle School, Rockford Elementary School, Surry Central High School, Westfield Elementary School, White Plains Elementary School, and individual competitors.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1933.