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Special Olympians tour Lay Dam

By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor

 

Special needs students in the Chilton County School system were invited to participate in the annual Special Olympics event at Clanton City Park on April 25.

However, that was not the end of the fun for many of them.

Each year, Alabama Power invites Special Olympians from schools across the county to lunch and a tour of Lay Dam, with this year’s event held in part on May 8.

The children in attendance were invited to dance to music played by an employee who acted as a DJ for the event. (J.R. TIDWELL/ADVERTISER)

Roger Yeargan, the hydro manager for the lower Coosa River system, takes the lead in putting on the annual event for the kids.

“We’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” Yeargan said. “The way it started out, the school system would have the Special Olympics at the park. Everybody who participated we would invite to tour the dam. The last few years we have invited all special needs students from Chilton County Schools.”

Yeargan said students from Isabella, Maplesville, Verbena, Jemison and Clanton attended this year’s tour.

The kids were treated to a lunch of hot dogs, chips and candy for dessert after the tour of the dam was completed.

“It’s not a hard event to put together,”Yeargan said. “We get in contact with Michelle Coppedge(who organizes the Special Olympics) each year and we pick a date, usually around the first day of May. We schedule it for two days back to back, because we can’t get all the students through the tour in one day. We get all the food, and one of our journeymen likes to play music so he acts as a DJ. His wife comes and helps us out, too, because she loves seeing the kids.”

Yeargan said the company purchased 400 hot dogs this year to feed the crowd.

All of the Alabama Power employees at Lay Dam participate in the event, whether it is serving food in the lunch line or leading guided tours of the facility.

“We had an employee we call the ‘candyman’ who walks around and hands out candy to all the students when they finish their food.”

Yeargan said he requests a donation from the company each year to give to the special-needs wing of CCS in order to help offset the cost of the annual Special Olympics event.

Coppedge will soon be receiving a $500 check for this year’s donation.

“Alabama Power has always been good to us in supporting the event,” Yeargan said. “It really feels like we’re doing the right thing for a special group of students who might not always get to participate. We enjoy interacting with them for a day of fun.”

Yeargan said all work at Lay Dam shuts down both days that students attend the tour to make sure everyone stays safe.