Hundreds of athletes descended on Q.V. Sykes Park to participate in the fall games of the Special Olympics. Teams with members from different area schools and organizations all took part in the events with a chance to move on to state competition.
Shannon Ainsworth, director of Area 5 Special Olympics, tells us, "We put on four different events. We're doing bocce, softball skills, soccer, and equestrian. Seventeen of these individuals will move on to compete in State Games in October at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg."
This year the fall games were held at Q.V. Sykes Park, which is a change from NAS Meridian to help make the city of Meridian more accessible for teachers.
"And it does give the teachers a little more access to things in town," says Ainsworth. "The Navy base was so far away. They were very accommodating and helped us out for so many years, but it's just so far removed from town. This way they can make a full day of it for their students. Come out to Q.V. Sykes and enjoy a day then stop back by some local businesses, the mall, and McDonald's for ice cream, and things like that."
All of the equestrian events are complete volunteer based, including who brings their horses and mules.
Tom Butler has been bringing his animals for about 15 years, and says the smiles on the kids faces alone brings him back every year, "The smile on their face. Some of the kids have never ridden before. Some of the kids don't want to get on. You get them on, and they go around and come back, and it's the smile you see, it's just worth coming every year. It sure it."
Volunteers from NAS Meridian, MCC, and the 186th Air Refueling Wing were also on hand.