They came to Cherry Park in special buses, and vans, more than a hundred of these great people who cannot drive themselves. All are clients of the York County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs. And on Friday, all wanted to compete.
Those who can run, ran. Those who could walk, walked. Those who could throw, threw.
Everybody got a ribbon. Most of them got two, or three. One guide dog named Brady who helped a person named Becky Redden even got a ribbon. Becky Redden got ribbons, too.
“There is never a loser with these special people,” said Susan Plyler, whose 40-year-old daughter, Cathy, walked the 100 yard dash and threw a softball. “She looks forward to this all year and was heartbroken when the Special Olympics was cancelled.”
Last month rain forced cancellation of the annual Area 11 Special Olympics spring games held at Rock Hill’s Cherry Park. That event hosts the adults from the disabilities board, plus almost a thousand students from schools in York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Because the adults were so crestfallen at missing the Special Olympics, the staff at the disabilities board decided to have a field day Friday, at the same Cherry Park, with a few events and those same ribbons that all special athletes receive for doing the best that each can do.
Chris White, one of the staff members at the disabilities board who played football at the University of South Carolina after Chester High School, coordinated the event with a lot of help.
“These are people who try so hard in their lives, we wanted them to have the events after the rain out,” White said.
Many of the adults live in group homes and other special housing, some have part-time jobs with the Horizon Industries branch of the disabilities board. All can participate in the field day.
“The clients all received new t-shirts for the games, and after the games were cancelled, they really wanted to show off in their new shirts what they can do,” said Mary Poole, executive director of the county disabilities board. “And what they can do is their best.”
A 37-year-old lady named Betsy Bare, walked the 100 yards. She needs a walker, but she walked it. She did not stop until the very end.
She threw the softball, too.
“My ribbons,” Betsy showed any who would look. There was a second place red and a first place blue and more, and nobody who ever participated in athletics was ever prouder.
Becky Redden, that lady with the guide dog, showed off her ribbons and made sure everybody saw the ribbon for the dog.
“Everyone who participates gets a ribbon and Brady participated, too,” said Redden.
There were stopwatches for the runs and walks, and tape measurements for the throws, but nobody seemed to worry about who ran the fastest or threw the farthest. When someone threw, others cheered. When somebody walked, others clapped.
A man named Chris Parker finished the walk, received a ribbon, and then blew kisses to everybody who cheered for him.
Then he clapped for others.
The ribbons were pinned on the t-shirts and there were hugs and pictures and claps. Cathy Plyler and her family laughed and clapped.
The field day ended. There were no tears. There was only joy.
A lady named Kiki Williams held out her blue ribbon. She won it for throwing a softball so far. So did Henrietta Colbert.
Both won for trying their best, and not allowing anyone, or anything, to say either one of these special ladies can’t dare to be great.
“We did it,” said Kiki Williams.
Andrew Dys * 803-329-4065 * firstname.lastname@example.org