Local athletes, volunteers and supporters will kick off the annual Baldwin County Special Olympics at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Baldwin Braves Stadium.
Opening ceremonies will include a parade around the track, led by the Baldwin High School Marching Band, the presentation of colors by Georgia Military College’s color guard and a welcome by state Rep. Rusty Kidd.
This year there are approximately 60 to 80 participants registered to compete.
“Our numbers have gone up this year from last year with the addition of service centers from Oconee and Wilkinson County,” said Special Olympics coordinator Shannon New Diaz.
Participants are also come from Central State Hospital and the Life Enrichment Center.
Athletes will compete in events including running, walking, wheelchair-oriented races, the long jump, as well as a softball and tennis ball throws.
According to Diaz, the support and help from volunteers is a big part of the success of the Special Olympics each year.
“In my 40 years of working with the Special Olympics, I’ve never had anyone say they didn’t have a good time,” she said.
Some volunteer groups make it a tradition to be part of the activities. These groups include the BHS Marching Band, the GMC National Honor Society, the GMC Drill team and Color Guard, John Milledge Academy’s Anchor Club, Baldwin County and Milledgeville fire departments, Triumph Aerostructures - Vought Aircraft Division, the Knights of Columbus, Baldwin Masonic Lodge No. 159, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and Rep. Kidd. Diaz said there are also a large number of individual community members who make the effort to volunteer for the event every year as well.
For those unable to volunteer, Diaz encourages everyone to come be spectators and help cheer the athletes on to victory.
“The support of the community for the athletes really helps them try harder,” she said.
Diaz suggests giving it a try.
“If you haven’t been before you don’t know what you’re missing,” she said. “This is truly an inspiring and fun event for everyone involved.”
All volunteers are expected to be at the Baldwin Braves Stadium by 9:15 a.m. Those interested in becoming a volunteer should call Diaz at 478-456-5475.