The Party Hearty Cheer and Dance Competition, held on Saturday, was hosted by Special Olympics Surry County and Project Unify County Wide Friends Accepted Now Club. This was the second such competition hosted by the groups, but this time they decided to also host a dance.
Local athletes gathered at Flyers Gymnastics in Mount Airy Saturday morning for the competition, which was judged by two volunteers. The competition was open to females and males ages 4 - 21. Competitors had the opportunity to perform short routines as individuals or groups. They were divided into mini hearts, youth hearts, senior hearts, Special Olympic open, and team hearts competitions, with first place trophies being awarded in each division.
There were nine entries in the competition, and a team from Flyers Gym took the grand champion prize, winning $50. Millie Hiatt, Surry County Parks and Recreation supervisor, said the group plans to use the money to throw a party.
Registration at the door was $5 per participant, and the cost for spectators was $2. This money will go to benefit Special Olympics Surry County, which is solely funded through fundraising efforts.
To participate in the competition, youth could be of any skill level and did not have to have competition experience.
Hiatt explained the message Special Olympics and the F.A.N. Club were trying to promote with the events: “It doesn’t matter what your ability or disability is. We’re all unified together.”
She said she was especially touched on Saturday when the crowd cheered and really got behind a Special Olympics athlete who was nervous when she started her routine.
“That made my day,” Hiatt remarked. “That’s what I’m all about — the athletes having an equal opportunity to compete.”
Surry County has its own Special Olympics cheerleading team, called the Honeybees. Some of the team members competed on Saturday. Jordan Bryant, a local high school student, is one of the coaches for the team. She got started with coaching through a senior project at school.
Bryant said of the group, “If you’re having a bad day, they just make it better.”
She wants people to know that anyone, Special Olympics participants included, can be cheerleaders if they want. She said competitions like Party Hearty help people see that people of different skill levels can be unified, and that you should not judge people.
Megan Hardy, a Mount Airy High School sophomore who is part of the youth club called Friends Accepted Now, attended the cheerleading event. She said, “I think it’s a good way to raise funds and awareness.”
Joseph Stewart, a sophomore at North Surry High School, also is a F.A.N. Club member who attended the competition to show his support. He said, “It’ll give the Special Olympics athletes the chance to interact with other athletes.”
Starting at 7 p.m. that night, the Special Olympics groups also sponsored a Party Hearty Dance.
“It’s an ideal location for a dance,” said Hiatt of the gym.
The dance was open to anyone, with the cost being $5 apiece to raise money for Special Olympics. At the dance, organizers also had pledges that youth could sign to promise not to use the “r” word — retarded. People can also go online to www.r-word.org to take the pledge.
Special Olypmics leaders were in contact with local schools to encourage them to announce the events. Hiatt said there would be many chaperones for the event, which she wanted to be family friendly. The event featured two young DJs, Valentines decorations, concessions, and disco lights.
“Anyone can come,” she said Saturday morning. “Our athletes will be here dancing, too.”
Special Olympics Surry County will sponsor another cheer and dance competition on March 18. Organizers decided to try out a Friday night competition instead of the usual Saturday competition. A dance will be held immediately following the competition.
“We would like to have a competition every couple of months,” Hiatt remarked.
She said the cheerleaders and gym facility employees came to Special Olympics and offered the facility to support the group. The March competition will be the last one of the school year for Special Olympics Surry County.
For more information about Special Olympics Surry County, call the Surry County Parks and Recreation Department at 401-8235.
Contact Meghann Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.