Every­one’s a win­ner

An­nual New­ton County Spe­cial Olympics event took place at Sharp Sta­dium

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL STO­VALL gsto­vall@cov­news.com

LaTrelle Cawthon can rat­tle off the num­bers with ease, and to a “t.”

Dur­ing last week’s an­nual New­ton County Spe­cial Olympics event at Sharp Sta­dium, Cawthon counted out 492 stu­dents and teach­ers, 232 bud­dies — peo­ple who come along side to help the Spe­cial Olympics stu­dent-ath­letes along. Then there’s 123 com­mu­nity vol­un­teers and 24 man­age­ment team mem­bers.

That’s the kind of man, woman and child power it took to pull of this year’s ver­sion of the Spe­cial Olympics. And al­though each year is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, Cawthon says she al­ways walks away with it feel­ing pretty much the same.

“The kids are amaz­ing,” she said. “They’re ab­so­lutely amaz­ing. To see them ac­com­plish goals at the in­di­vid­ual level, and to see them get so ex­cited be­cause, maybe they threw two inches fur­ther than last year or maybe even 10 feet fur­ther than last year. OR be­cause they ran faster than last year, or even the fact that they got to run at all.”

Al­most on cue, as Cawthon was say­ing that, a young girl in a walker came by. Her name is Tay­lor Hey­ward, and she was all set to com­pete in the 50-yard dash. A cool feat in it­self, made even more spe­cial, con­sid­er­ing that this is the first time Hey­ward’s been able to com­pete while stand­ing up.

“She’s been in a wheel­chair for years,” Cawthon said. “But now she’s up and walk­ing and com­pet­ing.”

The events were some­what sim­i­lar to what you would find in typ­i­cal field day or track meet. There were 50 and 100-yard dashes, a long jump event and a soft­ball throw, com­plete with award podi­ums and medal cer­e­monies.

Al­though the event got off to a slow start, thanks to Mon­day’s rain which post­poned the open­ing day cer­e­monies un­til Fri­day, when Tues­day ar­rived, the sun shone brightly, and so did the young stu­dent-ath­letes who par­tic­i­pated as well as the stu­dents who stood along­side them.

It’s an event that Cawthon has been around for 15 years, seven of those as the event co­or­di­na­tor. And it never gets old for her.

Vol­un­teers came out in droves, from places such as First Bap­tist Academy, the New­ton County Theme School’s beta club and Peachtree Academy. Most of those vol­un­teers were bud­dies — stu­dents who come along side the ath­letes to pro­vide them bunches of sup­port.

Teach­ers, like Kim­berly Pullen and Brad Banks from New- ton High, also came out to lend a help­ing hand, and to make it clear their rea­son for sac­ri­fic­ing their time.

“This really isn’t about us,” Banks said. “It’s about th­ese kids out here.”

Said Pullen: “We’re just out here to do our part for them.”

Sev­eral Spe­cial Olympics ath­letes take a pet­ting break with a puppy dur­ing last week’s Spe­cial Olympics events at Sharp Sta­dium.

Photos by Tyler Wil­liams | The Cov­ing­ton News

Tay­lor Hey­ward, bound to a wheel­chair this time last year, is sprint­ing to the fin­ish line in the 50 yard dash in her walker dur­ing last week’s Spe­cial Olympics.

A Spe­cial Olympics ath­lete waves as he cel­e­brates re­ceiv­ing a medal dur­ing an awards cer­e­mony.

Two Spe­cial Olympics ath­letes pose for a pic­ture after an award cer­e­mony.

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