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Hundreds support Special Olympics
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Opening ceremonies at Wednesdays Special Olympics 2013 Spring Local Games released a river of excitement and energy across the campus of Riverview Middle School.

Dawson County Board of Education member, Doris Cook, began the ceremonies by quoting a poem by John Wesley.

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can . . . As long as ever you can.

I think that is very fitting for today, said Cook. These children always see the good in everything. Next came Riverview Middle athlete, Casey Passmore, who belted out an inspiring version of the National Anthem, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by the DCHS JROTC cadets, and the Athletes Oath recited by Lumpkin County High School athlete Gabby Sisk. Carrying this years Olympic Torch was Lumpkin County High School athlete, Elijah Clark. This was Dawson Countys first time, hosting the Games for athletes from both, Dawson and Lumpkin Counties. And, their efforts paid off in a big way for the participants. Hundreds of volunteers from both counties organizations, civic clubs, churches and schools joined hands with student athletes for a day to remember that, You can. The Rotary Club of Dawson County showed its support by purchasing the medals awarded to all athletes. For Club President, Carla Boutin, the opportunity to participate was an honor. Especially since Dawson County hosted it, she said. Its such a wonderful thing with what it brings into the lives of those that participate. Hosting the Games was a collaborative effort headed up by Jacqueline Daniel, local coordinator of Special Olympics and president of ConnectAbility, which serves as the local delegation for Dawson and Lumpkin Counties Special Olympics Georgia program. Joining Daniel were Tricia Owenby, Dawson County special education coordinator; Dr. Susan Rutherford, Dawson County director of special education, and Kevin Stewart, adaptive physical education teacher and coordinator for Lumpkin Countys special education coordinator. This was Owenbys first year as Dawsons coordinator. Tricia worked very hard to make sure all of the athletes had plenty to do, said Daniel. It had a lot of depth to it, and she added extra things that made it a lot more fun. Approximately 140 athletes participated in the event 75 from Dawson and 65 from Lumpkin. Also participating were 100 Buddies assisting athletes ages two through middle school, and over 100 additional volunteers. Daniel said the program has increased by 1,200 percent since 2010. Its because we have the support from our community, our management teams and our school systems, she explained. I feel really confident that the momentum that has started is going to carry on. That dedication, coupled with commitments of local sponsors, resulted in a carnival-styled arena full of fun-filled activities including Olympic events, inflatables, games, face painting, balloons and lots of good food. Appalachian Tech Services (ATS) was another huge sponsor, providing a pizza lunch for athletes and volunteers. Will Shattuck of ATS said he and his staff had a great time attending the local Games. It was very special to be a part of it, he said. And we hope we can continue to be involved. Emily Beusse and Jenny Daniel are students at University of North Georgia and currently pursuing degrees in physical education. For them, the opportunity to volunteer was exciting and educational. When I am a teacher, I will have a child with a disability in class, Beusse explained. You want them to get as much enjoyment out of the games as any other child. Daniel agreed. We are doing wheelchair activities today so it will kind of give us an insight on how to modify our games to include everyone. I am really excited about today. All kids should have the opportunity to be included. Mark DeLoach, 38, is in the Special Olympics Masters Program and has been involved since he was four-years-old. Its very nice and a ton of fun. And its a great day, too, he said. His father, Russ DeLoach, currently serves on the board and has been involved in four different Special Olympics programs throughout the country. He said he considers his involvement a privilege. It helps so many and has such a big impact on these folks lives, he said. My involvement began because of my sons need, and Mark now being in the Masters Program, offers a different perspective. But, its also great being involved with the younger group because you see all the potential thats there. Perhaps no one is as excited about this years success as Owenby. She was overwhelmed by the communitys support. In the future it will be bigger, she said. It is my goal is to get even more people involved. And maybe we could host it every year if we have this type of turnout. It went really well and we are appreciative of everyones support.