Special Athletes: Students shine in 2024 Special Olympics

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, May 1, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The 2024 Chilton County Special Olympics welcomed dozens of athletes to Clanton City Park on April 25 to compete. The Special Olympics enjoyed another year of making the day for special education children in Chilton County, and giving them a time solely dedicated to them.

“(The students) love it, and they will start asking me the day after it is over when the next Special Olympics is going to be next year, if I have their shirts ordered and what is the theme,” Michelle Coppedge, Chilton County Schools Special Education Director, said. “It is a ‘yes’ day for them. If they want blue ribbons, yes. If they want multi-colored ribbons, yes. If they want five balloons, yes. It is a day where they get to enjoy being an athlete. They do not always get to know what that feels like, so they get to have their events that they compete in, and they are doing things that a lot of people take for granted.”

The athletes entered the football field at Clanton City Park in unison during the athlete parade as each school competing was recognized. The athletes gathered on the football field in front of a standing-room-only crowd for the opening ceremonies that passed out awards to senior students, and those in the community that help support the event.

Scarlett Sears from Success Unlimited Academy in Montogmery, and Anna Smitherman from Chilton County High School received senior awards during the opening ceremonies. Aaron Ellison of Ellison Memorial Funeral Home, and Kim Robinson of Martin Funeral Home, were both awarded the Community Difference Maker of the Year for their continuous involvement and support of special education in Chilton County.

Following the opening ceremonies, the athletes were released for the Olympics to compete in games that included basketball, baseball, soccer, track and field and more. Face painting, shaved ice and photo opportunities were also a part of the morning fun for the athletes.

“Seeing when they are so excited to get their senior award, that is so fun,” Coppedge said. “They love to be a part of the torch run … I love it when they say ‘That was the best day ever,’ or ‘That was the best day of the year.’ I just want it to be special for them, because everything looks normal and they are a part of that, but it does not always celebrate who they get to be. Today celebrates them.”