Editor and Publisher
John H. Walker
For many of us in Edgecombe County, the fifth day of the week was just that — another day and another work day.
But for dozens and dozens of children and young adults with intellectual disabilities, it was anything but.
That’s because it was their day … the day they got to take to the track and field at SouthWest Edgecombe High School and compete in the Special Olympics of Edgecombe County.
It was their day.
And on their day, they ran and jumped and threw — and earned recognition for their efforts from a crowd made up of family, friends, volunteers and the colorful clown corps of the SouthWest Edgecombe Air Force JROTC.
Members of the Golden K Kiwanis of Tarboro manned the track, starting the races and picking the finishers, and everyone with a voice cheered on the competitors — especially those who might have been struggling a bit to finish.
“C’mon, Ethan! You can do it! Run fast,” one of the clowns yelled as a group of the youngest competitors raced down the track. It was only moments earlier that she had read his name tag, but there she was, helping cheer him on to what would become a blue ribbon-earning win.
As Ethan headed off the track, his smile filled his entire face and his grin was full of teeth as he proudly held his ribbon. A short while later, he was able to tell a loved one about his victory via cell phone.
“I won. I got the blue ribbon,” he said excitedly.
If one were to really watch after the races, they would see the real story of Special Olympics and why these athletes really are special. In their world, they were all winners. There were hugs and high fives, low fives and cheers as each competitor not only celebrated their experience, but those of their friends, too.
Greg Pierce has talked about Special Olympics for weeks, inviting all who would listen to come see he and his brother, Craig, compete.
On Thursday, Greg and Craig led the Parade of Athletes, following directly behind the Color Guard of Col. Mike Whitehurst’s AFJROTC unit and in front of all the other athletes.
As the parade came to a stop and the Color Guard turned to face the bleachers, Quan Jenkins sang the National Anthem, which was followed by the Athlete’s Oath, led by Christian Jones.
It’s a simple, but straightforward oath … one that would serve many others in addition to the Special Olympians, if only they would listen to and follow its 15 words:
“Let me win,
“But if I cannot win,
“Let me be brave in the attempt.”
After Christian led everyone in the oath, master of ceremonies Dave Sharp pronounced the games to be open.
It was about half way through the schedule when Tarboro mayor Donald Morris took a break from marshalling competitors to the track to watch a race or two from the infield.
“You know,” he said, “when you get down to it, this is what life is really all about … helping others and putting a smile on a face or two.”
Yes, you can cut taxes and you can build buildings, but putting a smile on a face … and in a heart … and allowing a bit or normalcy into what might be a not-so-normal life is what life — and Special Olympics — is really all about.