A celebration of people

Crowds flock to Rec Center for 2014 Special Olympics
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | May 02, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Mary Beth Davis from Tuscola High School zooms toward the finish line while racing against Lou Stamey, a fifth-grader at North Canton Middle School during the 10 meter wheelchair race.

There wasn't a vacant parking place to be found at the Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department on Friday morning after hundreds flocked to the track area to celebrate the 2014 Haywood County Special Olympics.

With squeals of delight and booming cheers from the crowd, the athletes participating gave it their all in the competition where everyone was a winner.

Whether it was during wheelchair race, a softball throw or the long jump into the sand each of the children and adults who competed were excited to show what they could do. While looking forward to the big day, many of the competitors train for months to improve their performance.

"It's the highlight of the year for special education teachers and the PE teachers," said Joan Ferrara, exceptional children director for Haywood County Schools. "What makes it so special to me is the community involvement. It's a chance for students to shine in an athletic competition and be cheered on by friends and family."

For Waynesville Middle Schooler eighth-grader Lexie James, the highlight of her day was not only competing in the races, but getting to spend time with her older brother Jesse who was there to cheer for her on the sidelines.

"It's awesome — I told you it was fast," James said to her family after winning the 10 meter wheelchair race.

"This event is for everyone — it's something they look forward to every year," said Shannah Fowler, James' mother. "They know they always have this day dedicated to them."

The event usually draws a big crowd, and this year was no different. Ferrara said she was pleased with the turnout.

"I think for the children with learning challenges, it really integrates them into the community. This is a testimony to that," Ferrara said. "It's just a celebration of people, a celebration of diversity with a lot of happiness and smiles."

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