400 expected to participate in today’s Vernon Parish Special Olympics

Published 6:05 am Friday, March 31, 2023

By Emily Burleigh
More than 400 students will be participating in the Vernon Parish Special Olympics today at Rosepine High School.

Event organizer Kelly Kaiama-Goodwin said the Vernon Parish special olympics are uniquely eventful. “Our Vernon Parish Special Olympics are not the normal Special Olympics, it’s a Special Olympic Extravaganza,” she said.  “It’s a day of competition, fun, excitement, and loving life through the eyes of our athletes.”

She recalls volunteering for similar, inclusive. events when she was younger. However, at a point in time, the special olympics were limited to middle and high school students. In 2018, she decided she wanted to expand the event, and took on the role as event organizer.

The following year, 17 of the 18 schools in the Vernon Parish school district participated, with over 180 athletes competing.

Due to pandemic restrictions, the games were canceled in 2020 and 2021. The special olympics came back with a band in 2022, with all 18 schools participating with 268 athletes. This year, attendance almost doubled, with 413 students from 18 schools participating.

Students will participate in a wide range of activities, such as the parade of athletes, a torch run and Olympic Oath, softball throw, tennis ball throw, standing long jump, 25 meter walks, 25 meter runs, 50 meter runs, 100 meter runs and relay races.

There will also be an inflatable obstacle course and bouncy house, as well as other festival activities- temporary tattoos, face painting and bubble blowing stations.

Concessions — cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, hamburgers, hotdogs — will be available for purchase. Additionally, food trucks for Kai’s Island Grill and Savage Spork will be at the event.

The participating athletes will receive either medals or ribbons after the events.

Many law enforcement officers will be volunteering. At 9 a.m., participating officers will enter the Rosepine football stadium to ceremoniously pass the to the students to kick off the parade of athletes.

The public is encouraged to attend the event. “Anyone that’s never been to an event like this needs to come or find an event close to them, because there is no athletic event that compares to the Special Olympics,” said Kaiama-Goodwin. “The way you feel when you see their faces, their determination and their excitement… Well there’s no words.”