GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Elizabeth Vowell – email
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There may not have been an Olympic torch, but there was plenty of celebration at the kick off of the Area Three Region Special Olympics.
"I love these kind of games like this for my friends," said special athlete Tabitha Turnage. "I'm always excited at any special events venue because the athletes just have so much fun," said Area Three Special Olympics Director Penny Replogle.
About 80 athletes from Stone, Pearl, Hancock and Harrison Counties participated. The Area Three Region Special Olympics have been absent since Hurricane Katrina.
A lack of volunteers and participants made it impossible to organize. Now, thanks to help from the Seabee Base, the games are open again.
"I don't have the words to describe it. It is so wonderful that we are able to do this again after five years. As you can see the athletes are so jazzed," said Replogle.
There were four main events at the games: croquet, softball, soccer and horseshoes. Any of the athletes who participate in the regional games are eligible to go on and play in the state games which will be held in October.
According to organizers, around 20 athletes plan to compete in the state games.
"It gives them something that they can do, a sense of accomplishment. They can say, 'I did this. I'm a special athlete. I can do this,'" said Replogle.
During the games, each athlete is paired with a volunteer. This year the more than 400 volunteers were soldiers and employees from the Seabee Base.