Under a bright March sky more than 160 participants jumped, ran and threw balls during the annual ARC of Calhoun and Cleburne County Special Olympics on Tuesday.
The football field at Jacksonville High School was filled with laughter, cheering and good times as participants from every school system in Cleburne and Calhoun counties competed in the chilly wind.
ARC outreach coordinator and Special Olympics coordinator Pati Tiller was running around the football field making sure everything started on time. The noontime sun finally warmed things up, but, Tiller said, this Special Olympics was the coldest one in “about five years.” She did not want to postpone the event to the next available date, when temperatures are forecast to be even colder.
During lunch Tiller had a chance to catch her breath and reflect on the event.
“To me it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work — not only on my behalf but all the athletes have to train — they train and get physicals to come here and take part,” Tiller said.
Tiller credited the volunteers that have put in many hours to make the event come together.
“So it’s really what Special Olympics is — setting goals and achieving them,” Tiller said.
Cleburne County Schools special education director Tammy Angle said her school system brought 35 athletes to compete along with 40 “buddies.” Buddies are volunteer students who assist the athletes during the various events.
“Well, it is by far my favorite day of the year,” Angle said. “It’s a fun day for teachers, students and families.”
Cleburne County Middle School student Joey Dearborn, 14, was ecstatic to be competing.
It “makes me feel adrenaline-filled right now,” Dearborn said. “I’m excited beyond anything right now.”