Everyone’s a winner
Annual Newton County Special Olympics event took place at Sharp Stadium
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.
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.