Elmer Gray Stadium will soon play host to the Special Olympics Big Country Spring Games.
The Special Olympics event will begin Saturday with opening ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. and competitions starting soon after at 10 a.m. The events should run no later than 4 p.m., and admission is free.
Luann Chastain, the area director for Special Olympics Texas Area 14, said events such as these shine a spotlight on a population who is often overlooked in activities such as sports.
“Traditionally, there’s not a lot of opportunities for our athletes to compete on a traditional level,” Chastain said. “This gives them the opportunity to go out and show what they’re capable of and their love for sport.”
The first Special Olympics games took place in 1968 and now serves millions of people internationally and in the United States. In 2013, Area 14 had a total of 1,528 athletes who competed throughout the year. Chastain said she has an idea of how many people will be in attendance for Saturday’s games.
“I have 300 athletes, around 75 to 100 volunteers, and we should have about 100 to 150 fans in the stands,” Chastain said.
The games will cater to a wide variety of participants from all over the Big Country.
“Athletes come from all around the area,” Chastian said. “People are coming from San Saba, San Angelo, Cisco, Snyder, Anson, Breckenridge and obviously Abilene.”
The games will include events such as shot put, javelin, wheelchair races and multiple types of relays so athletes can showcase their talents.
“It’s a traditional track meet,” Chastain said. “They love to compete, and the joy they exude is just invigorating.”
Chastain also said events such as these bind the community together and thanks ACU for their involvement in the planning of the games.
“I think it shows Abilene really cares,” Chastain said. “ACU has been amazing, letting us use their facility, and they’ve gone out of their way to make sure we have everything we need.”
Volunteers were a key element in organizing the event and sponsors also assisted in the orchestration of the games.
“There are a lot of coaches who volunteer their time yearly and some key volunteers that are helping us put it on,” Chastain said. “It has given the community a chance to pull together and do something great for this population.”