Polk County’s Special Olympics Spring Games had a touch of Hollywood Thursday morning, but the presence of James “Radio” Kennedy didn’t take away from the true stars of the day.
The standouts, the ones deserving of seeing their names in bright lights, were the competitors who filled G.M. Tennant Stadium with smiles and determination. Nearly 100 athletes and more than 100 volunteers shared a special few hours on W.J. Miller Field, taking part in the 2018 Games.
The day began with a parade of those athletes, each circling the track as community members and Polk County High School students and faculty cheered. More ceremonies followed, soon the Olympic torch was lit and the Games began.
Memories flowed from there on.
“When I walked into my special needs classroom at Tryon Elementary after the games, one of my students yelled, ‘Mrs. Ollis, I WON!,’ making all of the hours involved in planning this event well worth it,” said Tryon Elementary’s Jane Ollis, who serves as the local program coordinator.
When her husband, Polk County head football coach Bruce Ollis, coached at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C., Jane Ollis developed a friendship with Kennedy, subject of the 2003 film Radio, which helped break down barriers for people with special needs. So in her first year as local coordinator, Ollis made it a point to invite Kennedy to serve as Polk County’s master of ceremonies.
Athletes, spectators, PCHS faculty members – all worked during the day to get a photo with Radio.
And many also made certain to get a photo with the stars of the day as they competed in the various events.
“Although today was amazing, it’s not enough,” Ollis said. “The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”
Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) offers sports training and competition in 19 Olympic-type sports to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Anyone interested in being involved with Polk County Special Olympics can call Jane Ollis at 828-817-4404 or email email@example.com.