Annual Special Olympics to be held Saturday at BGHS

Emma Austin

Bowling Green’s annual Special Olympic Spring Games will be hosted Saturday at Bowling Green High School, bringing the community together in support of its athletes.

Teams from Bowling Green and surrounding counties and cities will be competing for the opportunity to go to the state meet this summer at Eastern Kentucky University, according to Cameron Levis, instructor for the Special Populations program with Bowling Green Parks and Recreation.

At the games this Saturday, athletes will compete in track and field events, including running, long jump, softball throw and other events.

Special Olympics is the largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, according to the Special Olympics website. The organization has more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries with millions more volunteers and supporters.

Levis said competing in the Special Olympic games helps athletes set goals and strive for something they want to achieve.

“It gives them peers to compete alongside … and helps them grow friendships that will last a lifetime,” Levis said.

Levis said the mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities by giving them opportunities to develop physical fitness as well as experience joy and friendship with the community.

However, Levis said he thinks those whom the games impact most are the volunteers. 

“One of the greatest resources is the community volunteers,” Special Populations coordinator Holly Vincent said. “They are truly what make the event successful.”

Levis said there will be 11 WKU classes or organizations volunteering this year. Volunteers can help in a wide variety of ways, but Levis said the most important volunteer activity is to be a fan.

“Being a fan is what it is all about,” he said. “The athletes that will be competing have their days made when they see people in the stands there to support them.”

Bowling Green’s Special Populations program also offers other events throughout the year, including dances, coloring class, movie nights and holiday parties. A volunteer application is available on the program’s website.

Special Populations will also be hosting its first Paralympics event, “Adapted Sports Rollout,” on April 23.

Levis said the event will serve as an opportunity for both able-bodied individuals and those with disabilities to learn and participate in sports such as wheelchair basketball, racing, tennis and more.

“Being a part of a program like this allows individuals the opportunity to gain a whole new point of view on the abilities of those with disabilities,” Levis said. 

Levis said he hopes that if the upcoming games are someone’s first experience volunteering, they will encourage future participation in other events as well.

“I think it is important to see the Bowling Green community support these athletes and those competing because it is what motivates them a lot of times,” Levis said. Vincent said one of the event’s greatest rewards is the joy and smiles of all participants.

“The athletes love the support of the community,” Vincent said. “It helps push them to do their best and to know that no matter if they win or lose, they have the community and volunteers there to cheer them on.”

The Special Olympics Spring Games will take place on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Bowling Green High School.