LaGRANGE — Temperate weather, sunshine and smiles marked the annual Troup County Special Olympics Spring Games on Wednesday at the George F. Harris Baseball Complex.
More than 150 athletes from kindergarten to high school ages competed in soccer skills, kick ball, parachute fun and relay races.
J.J. Kuerzi of the Troup County Parks and Recreation Department organized the event and brought in dozens of volunteers from the school system, LaGrange College and across the community. Although the scores of children laughed and grinned, the occasion began with a somber salute to one of LaGrange’s most well known community leaders.
“We did an opening ceremony in memory of Jim Boyd, because Jim and Annette Boyd were instrumental in our program,” Kuerzi said.
Jim Boyd died April 8 at the age of 83. He and his wife, Annette, were locally famous for their patriotism and organization of the annual Sweet Land of Liberty 4th of July Parade in downtown LaGrange. Their daughter, Lynn Holle, also attended the games. Honoring their memory, this year’s Special Olympics Spring Games’ theme was “Proud to be an American.”
“They were hands-on involved in every aspect of the games,” Kuerzi said. “They fund raised, they organized, and the biggest thing they did was cheer us on. They gave them the winning spirit that these kids deserved.”
Continuing the Boyds’ spirit of selfless service, student athletes from LaGrange College aided in Wednesday’s game, cheering on athletes and helping where needed.
Andrea Heflin, a LaGrange College women’s basketball team member and native of LaGrange, said she volunteered to give back to her community and delighted in seeing the enthusiasm and team spirit of all the athletes.
“I wanted to come out here and be a part of it,” Heflin said. “I’ve liked seeing them come out and have fun, and be competitive. They all want to win, but even if they don’t, they’re OK with it because they all love each other. They don’t want to get their friend out, they want to see everyone succeed, which is really positive.”
Stephanie Hall, an exceptional education teacher at LaGrange High School, said she appreciated the community’s support of the games and hopes locals will continue to rally behind the athletes — not just in the games, but in life.
“This is probably the highlight of the year,” Hall said. “They’re able to see their friends, participate in sports, be active in the community — they all have the same hopes and dreams that we all have.”
Hall noted the partnerships the school system has forged with local businesses to help students with challenges succeed in the business community. She hopes more employers consider hiring a person with challenges.
“I’d like for community leaders to see them as viable employees in order to get our kids out in the community so they can generalize the skills they’re learning in school,” Hall said. “It’s important for them to be a part of the community, and they have a lot to contribute because of their love for community and their peers.”
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.