Scenes from the Special Olympics in Scotland County

By Les High

If only most sporting experiences could be as carefree and joyful as the Special Olympics Scotland County— an event where placing first usually comes second to cheerful high fives from volunteers, sharing joy with classmates, and snack time.

That’s not to say the athletes don’t try their hardest. It’s easy to see the desire and determination they sprint to the finish line of the 50-meter dash or the concentration that precedes a softball throw. The exhilaration of a completed run or toss is enough. Everyone’s success is celebrated in some way, whether it be a trip to the PVC and wood podium or a group hug.

More than 125 athletes from the community and eight Scotland County elementary, middle and high schools participated in the event Wednesday at Pate Stadium on the campus of Scotland High School.

Jenny Phelps, the local program coordinator for Special Olympics Scotland County this year with Kellie Jackson, said that despite the months-long efforts and hard work that go into organizing an event of this size, seeing the smiles of the athletes makes it worth it.

The Special Olympics motto is “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.”

“It’s a reminder that this is what it’s all about,” Phelps said. “Even though some athletes knew they might not win, they gave it their all. I watched one race where a kid just blew by everybody else, but they didn’t care. They were running just as hard as he was.”

Phelps said that community support for the event is rewarding, with more than 250 volunteers participating individually and from schools, groups and businesses.

“I was floored by the number of volunteers,” Phelps added. “Getting them was the easiest part of the job. You don’t see that everywhere.”

Devon Martin, accompanied by Master Sgt. Shawn Edwards of the U.S. Army Special Forces, carries the torch into Pate Stadium. Photos by Les High
The Scotland County High School delegation helps start the Parade of Athletes.
Participants from the Rainbow 66 group led more than 125 athletes in a procession to start the 2024 games.
The Scotland County High School ROTC color guard.
The Spring Hill Middle School delegation.
Young athletes wave to the crowd.
A large audience watches the Parade of Athletes in Pate Stadium.
Student athletes give their all in a 50-meter sprint event.
Jameson Driggers screams with delight after finishing a 50-meter dash. Volunteer Brianna Miller is at left.
Two athletes push to the finish line.
Even if an athlete surges forward, the others don’t give up.
Big hugs are the often best reward.
High fives at the finish line.
A trip to the podium is a thrill.
Hugs and high fives await the athletes.
Kelsey Morris gives instructions for the softball throw.
The basketball toss is a popular event for the younger athletes.
The object of this game is to work together to put the ball through a hole in the middle.
Proudly displaying a medal.
Pictures help remember a special day.
Snack time with volunteers is a rewarding part of the day for everyone.
Face painting was popular among the athletes.
Volunteer event coordinator Jenny Phelps, right, presented the Julian Butler Award to Juanita Swinny-Griffin of Scotland Healthcare. The Butler Award is given for outstanding support by volunteers and organizations. Scotland Healthcare provides physicals to athletes and provides medical staffing at the event.
Abby Smith won the Chuck Sligh Award. The award is given to the athlete who displays exemplary determination and courage.