Don Culpepper Reports On Special Olympics Summer Games

The thrill of victory doesn't get any more thrilling than this. More than 600 special athletes from across the state burn up the fields of friendly competition at Keesler Air Force Base during the Mississippi Special Olympics Summer Games.

"Everybody likes to excel in something and these athletes are excelling in their sports that they are participating in," says Rita Martinson, Special Olympics Board Vice President. "And it just makes them feel so good about themselves."

Sponsors say winning is only one part of the experience for the athletes.

"They get to meet new people for one and more friends,"says Adrienne Smith of Kilmichael. "So it's much more than a competition."

This is Keesler's 21st year to host the summer games and like the athletes they had to overcome some daunting challenges to get here.

"Well, the first one we faced was whether or not we were going to have the bed space," says Keesler Project Officer Major Terri Raines. "We had some facility damage from hurricane Katrina, so we wanted to make sure we could bed down the athletes and their coaches."

But organizers say the rewards far outweigh any hardships.

"There have been a few athletes that have said that they are glad we found them, and we were able to make this happen again," says Raines. "At least there's some normalcy in their lives right now."

But victory is still sweet, and a special achievement, like new friendships, are treasured for a lifetime.