Wednesday, 08 May 2019 20:50

Richmond County Special Olympics Athletes go for the gold at Spring Games

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Zyquail Little jumps 55 inches during the Richmond County Special Olympics Spring Games on Wednesday. See more photos on the RO's Facebook page. Zyquail Little jumps 55 inches during the Richmond County Special Olympics Spring Games on Wednesday. See more photos on the RO's Facebook page. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — More than 150 Special Olympics athletes competed in the Spring Games Wednesday at Raider Stadium.

The annual event kicked off with a lap around the track for the opening ceremony. Hamlet Police Chief T.L. McMasters, walking between Sheriff James Clemmons and Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly, led the way carrying the torch.

The county’s three top cops were followed by the Army JROTC Raider Battalion color guard, the marching band’s drum line and the athletes, who were divided by school.

Helping the athletes move from station to station and providing support were volunteers from Richmond Senior High School, Richmond Ninth Grade Academy, Temple Christian School, the Richmond County Schools Central Office, the Rockingham Fire Department, Evolution Health Club, the Department of Social Services and von Drehle.

The sheriff’s office and Probation and Parole took care of the cooking for the lunch that followed the games.

The athletes competed in four events: jumping (both standing and running); softball toss; and the run/walk/wheelchair race on the track.

This year, the jumps and ball toss were split into two stations to help move the participants through a little faster.

Following each event, the athletes stepped up on the pedestals to receive their medals before moving to the next station.

There was also an area for the 30 young athletes, 4- to 7-year-olds who didn’t necessarily have to be special needs, to practice jumping, tossing, kicking a ball and other activities.

“Everything went nice and smooth,” Special Olympics Coordinator Theressa Smith said as the stations were being broken down. “Great opening ceremony; it was just perfect, with all the people that came out.”

Smith is still looking for sponsors for the 21 athletes competing at the state Summer Games in Raleigh. Sponsorships are $50 each.

The athletes will be competing May 31-June 2 in athletics, similar to Wednesday’s games, and bowling.

“We hope … we are going to bring home the gold,” she said.

Anyone interested in sponsoring can call Smith at 910-206-0996.

Before the games got started, Hide-A-Way Tavern owner Chris Sachs presented Smith with an envelope containing $9,095 which was raised during the annual Buddy Roe Memorial Ride for the Special Olympics this past weekend.

“This is just awesome,” Smith told the crowd with tears in her eyes. “Richmond County Special Olympics is completely dependent on people like this … this is completely funded by our community and those people that care about you.”

Sachs and his wife bought the bar from Buddy Roebuck’s estate and carried on the tradition, since the Special Olympics meant a lot to the late owner.

More than 50 motorcycle riders left the Hide-A-Way around 1 p.m. Saturday, drove up to Moore County and looped back around.

Once they returned, the riders and others in attendance at the fundraiser had a choice of grilled chicken quarters or barbecue.

The event also featured performances from several local musicians.

Guitarist Shane Glaze accompanied singers Seth Parker and Meghan Bradley during the first hour, with Hide-A-Way bartender Taylor Lingren even joined Parker and Glaze for their rendition of Shinedown’s cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.”

Vocalists Nikki Fletcher and Charity Davis were both accompanied by guitarist Chuck Smith before a thunderstorm moving through the area forced organizers to move the music inside.

Smith and Davis played a few more tunes before Smith and former band mate Eric Whitfield, who was also running sound, pulled up a couple of bar stools and performed several country classics, including Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business,” and Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues.”

The guitars were put away and the music shifted to karaoke for the rest of the night, with Susan Davis and David Dixon joining in.