GOLDSBORO, N.C. -- Approximately 105 athletes and about 130 Marine and civilian volunteers participated in the annual Special Olympics of Wayne County, N.C., at the Dillard Middle School track April 19.
The Special Olympics offer year-round sports training and competition for more than 1 million children and adults with mental and physical disabilities around the nation.
Marine volunteers with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, came to lend their support during the day’s activities.
Athletes participating in events came from more than eight different Wayne County schools, according to Rick R. Walderman, Wayne County Special Olympics coordinator.
“Events like the Special Olympics let athletes with mental and physical disabilities have a good time competing and get the community involved,” said Walderman, who has been helping with the program for more than four years.
“It also gets rid of the negative stigma that people with special needs are outcasts, and we appreciate that the Marines have come out to support us.”
Walderman was impressed by the help the Marines provided and by how quickly they responded to his request for support.
“You can never have enough volunteers,” said Walderman. “We hope the Marines have a good time helping out.”
The Marines did have a good time with the athletes, said Cpl. Keegan A. Donehoo, an assault amphibious vehicle crewman.
“This is my first time participating in something like this,” said Donehoo, a Houston native. “And I’m really having a lot of fun. I would like to do something like this in the future.”
The athletes participated in track and field events, such as the long jump, softball throw, wheelchair race, and walk and run event.
Marines like Donehoo assisted the individual athletes and coordinated the games by running along side in races, helping throw softballs and cheering them on as they competed in the day’s events.
“It’s good for the community to see the Marine Corps is a professional institution that works for the community,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy L. Hill, operations chief for the motor transportation section of the battalion. “And it is good for the Marines to see that the community appreciates them.”
Carmen L. Hurdle, the mother of Carlaina Hurdle, the Wayne County Special Olympics 2006 to 2007 athlete of the year, thought it was encouraging to see the Marines working at the event.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see they care for this population,” said Hurdle. “It means a lot to all of us to see men of such high stature taking time out of their day to help out.”
For more information on Wayne County Special Olympics, please call (919) 743-7023 or visit www.specialolympics.org