The rain clouds cleared early Friday morning and the sun broke through to provide perfect weather for the 2013 Smoky Mountain Far West Regional Special Olympic Games. More than 200 athletes from Cherokee, Graham, Clay and Macon counties and the Qualla Boundary took to the field to compete in the games, which included an assortment of 24 different olympic events.
The olympic games began with members of the Macon County Sheriff's Department, Franklin Police Department, Highlands Police Department and N.C. Highway Patrol running in the torch to lead the Parade of Athletes around the Macon Middle School track. Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland and Special Olympic Athlete Michael Corn lit the ceremonial torch, signaling the beginning of the games.
Macon County Commission Chairman Kevin Corbin presided over the day as the Master of Ceremonies, and with the help of commissioner Ronnie Beale, welcomed all to the games.
“Thank you everyone for being here today. I want to give a special thanks to the men and women who act as caregivers to these athletes,” said Beale. “If not for them, we would not be here. The caregivers are folks who do this day in and day out. They make these kids and young adults who they are today. So, caregivers, we cannot thank you enough. You do this with very little thanks.”
“I absolutely loved being there on Friday,” Corbin said later. “It is such an incredible event and the organizers did such a great job. Just the spirit of the event and of the participants – the athletes are truly special people. I look forward to helping out in any way next year.”
After the National Anthem was bravely performed by the Singing Angels of Macon County, Boy Scout Troop 235, along with several members from the Knights of Columbus, presented the colors and led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Event organizers took time to honor three athletes who passed away in the last year. A moment of silence was held to remember Marilyn Potter, Brian Plemmons, and Bucky Jones.
Macon County athlete and member of the Singing Angels Leanne Webb kicked off the games with the Special Olympics Oath, “Let me win. But, if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Event coordinator Jennifer Garrett was happy to host the games for the second year, and is looking forward to hosting the games next year, before they move to Clay County.
“We were very excited to host Special Olympics for our second year,” she said. “We were blessed that the weather held out, and so many people got to come out and participate. We are looking forward to hosting the Far West Games for a third year next year. After that the Games will be hosted by Clay County.”
Congressman Mark Meadows was on hand to assist the Macon County commissioners, Assistant District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch and law enforcement officers in awarding the courageous athletes with their Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
“Being involved in the Macon County Special Olympics was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in the district,” said Meadows. “It truly touched my heart to celebrate the successes of these young people who were just so thankful to be able to compete. To the many volunteers who made this event possible, I offer my sincere gratitude. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this inspirational day.”
According to Garrett, preparation for the Special Olympics have been ongoing for a year. “Preparation for the games began one year ago after we hosted last year’s event doing mostly fundraising and planning for the games,” said Garrett. “The committee meets approximately every three months and then more as the games get closer. Now that this year’s event is over, we will begin meeting and planning for next year.”
“We thank everyone that was a participant, sponsor, donor, dignitary, committee member, etc,” said Garrett. “We could not put on these games without your support.”