ELIZABETHTOWN — Plenty of shiny medals and colorful ribbons were handed out Thursday during the 2016 Bladen County Special Olympics’ Spring Games at Elizabethtown Middle School.
But most all, what got passed around most were laughter and smiles.
The Spring Games were being held one week later than the original date because of weather, but Thursday dawned warm with only a few sprinkles to tease the event and things went on without a wrinkle.
Getting the annual event — which included 137 athletes and more than 300 volunteers — off the ground was a bigger challenge than Mother Nature posed.
“This was put together in just a month,” said Christina Smith, who took over as coordinator in March. “The rain actually helped us to get things planned because we had a few more days.”
But the potential for rain was on most people’s minds.
“I’m so happy the rain managed to stay away so we could get this in,” said Valerie Newton, public relations and information officer for Bladen County Schools. “It got a little muggy, but we got it in and everyone (had) a great time.”
Athletes from 13 sites around the county participated. Those sites included Bladenboro Primary, East Arcadia, Elizabethtown Primary, Plain View Primary, Tar Heel Middle, Elizabethtown Middle, East Bladen, West Bladen, Carolina Home Care Agency, Community Innovations, Bladen Opportunities/Monarch and BCC Comp Ed.
The athletes competed in track events, a softball toss, long jump, bocce ball and bowling — as well as non-competitive activities in Olympic Town that included Frisbee throw, Hula-hoops and more.
“This activity is so important for the athletes and their families,” Smith said. “They all look forward to it a lot every year. And it brings a lot of positive things together for the county.”
In the annual Special Olympics Banner Contest, judges named the following winners …
— First overall: Bladenboro Middle School.
— Second overall: Community Innovations.
— Third overall: Elizabethtown Primary.
— Most original: West Bladen High.
— Most creative: Bladenboro Primary.
— Most athletic involvement: Bladen Opportunities/Monarch.
— Best Olympic theme: East Bladen High.
As things were winding down and the athletes were getting ready to enjoy a lunch provided by Burger King, one athlete summed up the day best.
“This was more fun than anything,” said Jermaine Griffin of Carolina Home Care Agency. “And we won medals; I got one.”
Volunteer groups included those from the East Bladen Dream Team, West Bladen Dream Team, East Bladen soccer team, West Bladen JROTC, East Bladen Beta Club, Coastal Therapy Partners, Bladenboro Middle Beta Club, BCC nursing students, East Bladen Keyettes and East Bladen JROTC.
Anyone who might be interested in helping with future Special Olympics events in Bladen County can contact the Bladen County Schools EC Office at 910-862-4136.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.