Special Olympics Summer Games kick off in Stevens Point - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Special Olympics Summer Games kick off in Stevens Point

From Wausau to Milwaukee, Special Olympics athletes carried torches from across the state to central Wisconsin Thursday for the kick off of the summer games.

Thursday night, thousands of athletes came together in Sevens Point.

With a pass of a torch and parade of athletes, they officially kicked off the Special Olympics Wisconsin State Summer Games.

Proud athletes paraded down the UW-Stevens Point Colman Track while parents and coaches cheered them on from the sidelines.

"I'm just here to try my best and keep active," said Chad Johnson, an athlete from Viroqua.

"It's a neat experience when they come through the opening ceremonies and they announce the teams names and the athletes," said John Hough, Special Olympics volleyball coach. "You get an adrenaline rush and it's just really exciting, and I look back at the athletes and it's even more exciting for them."

The parade of athletes was just the beginning of a weekend full of events.

"One thing that you'll learn about Special Olympics is it's really not about winning or losing. It's about trying your best and when you come out to this event, you really see that in action," said Christina Harris, Special Olympics Wisconsin director of communications.

Organizers say the Special Olympics Wisconsin State Summer Games is their largest event, attracting about 2,000 athletes from across the state.

The athletes compete for different reasons.

"To keep myself slim so I'm not chubby all the time," said Johnson.

"To meet other athletes and to hang out and to see what they're like and just learn about them," said Jessica Harter, an athlete from Viroqua.

But they all leave with a smile on their face.

"When you see the athletes here this weekend, they're playing together. There's lots of hugs and high fives and cheering them on and it's just such a powerful thing and it's a great thing to be a part of and you can't leave here without being inspired," said Harris.

Organizers say it takes about 600 volunteers to make this weekend possible. But they say they're still looking to fill about 100 volunteer spots Friday and Saturday.

If you are interested in volunteering, organizers say show up the day of the event at the Health and Enhancement Center. Bring an ID to sign up there.

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