Area Special Olympics back on track

By Trina Trice

Clayton County's special education athletes were almost incapable of strutting their stuff this spring.

It's time for the 2003 Clayton County Special Olympic Track and Field Meet, which almost didn't happen.

Recently, local doctors were being recruited to perform free physical exams for a Health Fair Tuesday at Riverdale Christian Church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

But most doctors couldn't commit to volunteering.

The problem simply involved scheduling conflicts, said Lisa Palm, special education nurse for Clayton County Schools.

The doctors' "schedules just didn't allow for them to come to the fair that lasts all day," Palm said. To remedy the problem, "they've gone out to some of the schools. We took some kids to a physician's office Thursday."

The Special Olympics requires any athlete competing to have a physical assessment.

"It's nothing strenuous," said Al Guy, Adapted Physical Education teacher for Clayton County Schools. "It's just a screening process."

Athletes who plan to participate in the May 7 meet must have a current physical assessment.

Those athletes who don't are required to attend Tuesday's Health Fair.

"They worked it out with all the doctors," Guy said. "Tuesday, they'll be doing examinations of some of my kids."

Special Olympics is a year-round program of physical fitness, sports training and athletic competition for individuals with mental disabilities.

Guy has been working with his students all year for their big day. He'll work with students who have physical disabilities on May 9 at the Clayton County International Beach where they'll compete in activities, such as a wheelchair race and T-ball.

"They'll put their feet in the sand," Guy said. "They have a good time with that. They don't get to see each other all year, so it's great for them."

The Track and Field Meet is at Twelve Oaks Stadium with approximately 700 athletes and 350 volunteers expected to participate.

"We are also expecting approximately 20 mascots and clowns from various agencies and corporations," said Shawna Nelms, Therapeutic manager for Clayton County Parks and Recreation. "These mascots add so much to the excitement and fun of the day. They bring smiles and laughter from children who do not always have a lot to smile and laugh about."

Athletes compete first in the county, then they have the opportunity to go on to area, state, national, and international events.

No matter where the young athletes compete, "they get people cheering for them and they get their ribbons," Guy said.