Every year, there are a certain few events I like to cover for the Daily American Republic, like the Buddy Ball games in early summer, which I’ve written about before.
On Friday, I had the opportunity to go to another event I try to never miss - the Southeast Area Special Olympics.
In all honesty, I don’t know if I’ve missed it in the 23-plus years I’ve been here. Just a few years ago, I even made it on time for the start after hunting earlier in the morning, and nobody knew I had a turkey in the trunk at the time. But it was important for me to be there.
Just like with Buddy Ball, the athletes in the Special Olympics hold a special place for me.
A long time ago, I had a distant cousin with Down Syndrome, and his genuinely good heart, persistent happiness and love for life sticks with me to this day.
My wife, as a physical therapy assistant, used to work with children with severe disabilities at the Kenny Rodgers Children’s Center in Sikeston, so I’ve seen that side of it as well.
I’ve seen many of these local athletes grow over the years, and it’s gratifying to see where they are today, and you can bet your bottom dollar it gets to me whenever one remembers me and says hello.
These athletes live every day to its fullest, and while they may sometimes struggle with things you and I take for granted, they should be an inspiration to all.
As Sgt. Clark Parrott of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Friday, “There’s just something invigorating being around these athletes and seeing what they do and how they do it and how well they perform. If you showed up in a bad mood, in about three hours you’re going to leave in a great mood.”
And you know what? He was absolutely right.
I woke up Friday with a splitting headache, but for a couple hours as I roamed around the track and the field, going from event to event, I didn’t even notice. Those kids were happy, and so was I.
Paul Davis is assistant editor at the Daily American Republic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.