Students honored at 33rd Special Olympics

Published 4:50 pm Thursday, May 8, 2014

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Isaiah Moore sprints to the finish line in the 10-meter race Thursday at the Chilton County Special Olympics.

Taylor Bradberry waited patiently under a tent and smiled Thursday morning as a steady flow of people approached him for a quick word or picture after his speech at the 33rd annual Chilton County Special Olympics.

Family members, classmates and former teachers congratulated Bradberry on a job well done, and some confessed they couldn’t hold back tears.

Bradberry, a senior at Thorsby High School, was one of dozens of special needs students participating in track and field events at Clanton City Park on Thursday.

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Taylor Bradberry (center) competed in his 15th and final Special Olympics on Thursday. Bradberry is pictured with his grandmother, Cheryl Robinson (far left), and mother, Tara Simmons.

During the opening ceremonies, he spoke to his peers about accomplishing their goals, no matter what limitations they face.

“I encourage all of you to go out and have fun,” Bradberry said. “You can do it. Good luck to everybody, and God bless.”

Bradberry, 19, has cerebral palsy and dysautonomia, conditions that limit his physical mobility and affect his central nervous system, including heart rate and blood pressure.

Even so, Bradberry marked his 15th and final Special Olympics this year, a bittersweet milestone for him and his mother, Tara Simmons.

“It’s very inspiring,” Simmons said. “It’s a hard week for him, though. His life has centered around school for so long. These kids inspire him because they don’t treat him any different.”

In his speech, Bradberry shared his favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV).

Bradberry said he wants to go to Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham or Shorter University in Rome, Ga.

“God called me into the ministry, and my disability won’t stop me,” he said. “God opened me up to be a vessel to some people.”

Cheryl Robinson, Bradberry’s grandmother, described him as an “encourager.”

“I could have never had the blessings I’ve had if I hadn’t had Taylor,” Simmons said. “You see a different side of life and stop taking things for granted.”

This year’s Chilton County Special Olympics event was dedicated to former supporter Margo Gibson, who passed away in May 2013.

Gibson, formerly a special education teacher, English teacher and principal at Jemison High School, volunteered much of her time to Chilton County Special Olympics.

The opening ceremonies Thursday included Dara Norman, master of ceremonies; a torch run by senior Olympians; parade of athletes with all special Olympians; welcome from event organizer Michelle Coppedge and Clanton Mayor Billy Joe Driver; prayer by Bro. Billy Wyatt with Pleasant Grove No. 1; Pledge of Allegiance led by Chilton County Schools Superintendent Dave Hayden; National Anthem played by Thorsby High School’s Southern Pride Marching Band; recognition of SGA volunteers, sponsors and special guests; and a balloon release by Chilton County High School SGA members.

Before the 2014 Special Olympic Games were declared open, athletes recited the Special Olympics Oath together: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

All participants were given medals during the closing ceremonies, and Coppedge recognized Bradberry and Jordan Chavers as seniors.

The Games closed with a collective “roar” from participants.

“Their determination is inspiring, and their unconditional love for others is overwhelming,” Coppedge said of the students. “They make me want to love more deeply after having been with them. In a world that often says they aren’t enough, on this day, everything says that they are, indeed, enough. Everyone is a winner.”