A special day

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By Crystal Carry

By Crystal Carry

The athletes were getting ready and the stands were filling up as the Special Olympics event kicked off at RCC’s Wheelock Stadium April 8.

“The environment is beautiful and the facility is perfect at RCC,” said Meet Director Ken Finch. “Plus, with the rubberized track, the times can be used at national events.”

In this area, which includes Riverside, Rialto, 29 Palms, West Covina and Orange County, there are 12-14 events put on each year.

The athletes who compete at these events usually get involved through their schools.

“The schools get kids to join and sometimes their parents will call us,” said Riverside Area Director Rick Bromley. “ARC, which is an adult organization that helps handicap people, also recruits participants.”

At this event 170 athletes turned out to compete.

The competitions that were part of the Olympics were the standing long jump, long jump, shot put, softball throw, standard running 800 meters and under, motorized and manual wheelchair and walking events.

“The relay is my favorite event,” said four-year participant Terry Neel. “I like doing the relay because it’s like a team.”

Neel, who has loved sports all his life, likes the Special Olympics because it keeps him active.

“(I compete in) the relay 100, shot put and long jump,” he said. “I get to meet new people and I stay out of trouble.”

Another part of the Special Olympics is the volunteers.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints organized and was a sponsor for this event.

“Every year we have a youth conference where 150 teens age 14-18 do a large community service project,” Finch said. “The volunteers are officials as well as assistants to the athletes.”

The assistants to the athletes, also known as buddies, are there to help the athlete with everything.

“We get to be their friend for a day and help them get where they need to be,” said buddy Allison Kentfield.

When the athletes weren’t competing, tents sponsored by Albertson’s distribution, Farmers Insurance, The Press Enterprise and many more had games, face painting and free handouts to entertain.

“The athletes that we serve basically want the same thing out of life as everyone else does,” Bromley said. “That’s what we’re trying to get across with these games.”

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