Special Olympics affects athletes, volunteers alike

August 21, 2013 

Nelson Mandela, political leader and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, once said, “Few things in life could have given me greater pleasure or brought me more honor than to be associated with the Special Olympics. ... Special Olympics is a testament to the indestructibility of the human spirit.”

For the past three years, the city of Warner Robins has hosted the Georgia Special Olympics Masters Bowling Tournament, having a significant impact on the more than 1,000 athletes from across the state who participate.

On Friday, the city will again be the site of the annual weekend bowling tournament held at Gold Cup Bowling Center on Russell Parkway and the bowling alley on Robins Air Force Base. Hundreds of volunteers, coaches and family members will join the athletes for three days that will include an opening ceremony, bowling, pizza party, health fair and a “Boots and Bowling” themed dance. All of the non-bowling activities will take place at the Museum of Aviation amphitheater and Century of Flight Hangar.

“Few events, athletic or otherwise, bring a community together like Special Olympics Georgia state events,” said Georgia Milton-Sheats, CEO of Special Olympics Georgia, who coincidentally spent her high school years in Warner Robins. “The bowling tournament promotes individual growth, develops volunteer spirit and opens up a wide range of potential opportunities.”

Mayor Chuck Shaheen wholeheartedly agrees.

“Warner Robins loves sports and is a great place to raise a family. What better place to partner with Special Olympics to host the Masters Bowling Tournament?”

There is no doubt that participating in Special Olympics can be a game-changer for everyone involved. For the athletes, the games promote healthy, active living among a segment of individuals who statistics show are more likely to face obesity and related health problems than the general population. The games also provide a safe arena for peer interaction which, in the case of the Masters Bowling Tournament, affects ages 18 to 35. The games build confidence and a positive self-image, which carries into the classroom, the home, the job and the community.

For the volunteers, the games offer an opportunity to strengthen families, which fosters an appreciation of talents and promotes greater support between the Special Olympics athletes, siblings and parents. The community as a whole, through observation and participation, is united in understanding people with intellectual disabilities in an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.

Special Olympics Georgia provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympics-type sports for nearly 24,470 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The games give participants continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with families, other athletes and the host community.

“I just like seeing the faces of all the athletes,” is a comment made over and over by the volunteers.

If you would like to learn more about Special Olympics Georgia and the volunteer opportunities, visit its website at www.specialolympicsga.org.

Marsha Priest Buzzell is executive director of the Warner Robins Convention & Visitors Bureau. Contact her at 922-5100 or cvb@wrga.gov.

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