Before we came to Dalton in 2000, I’d never attended a Special Olympics event. After joining the Carpet City Rotary Club, that changed.
The club is highly invested in supporting numerous Special Olympics events throughout the entire year. The biggest event of the year is the track and field, but other events like basketball skills, bowling and others create numerous opportunities for Special Olympians to participate in the sport of their choice.
I’ve been involved in sports all my life, as a player, as a spectator and as a coach. In fact, one of my earliest memories, I think I was 4, is of tearing down a “steep” road on a homemade scooter in Stuttgart, Germany, with my grandfather watching for cross traffic. But I digress.
I remember my first Special Olympics even. It took place at the old Dalton High practice field. As I walked up from the parking lot, there on the field were hundreds of contestants and hundreds of volunteers.
That year I was the designated photographer so I had the opportunity to watch all of the various events. My first impression was the high level of enthusiasm exhibited by the special athletes. Even though the athletes had various different types of physical and or mental challenges, what they all shared with every athlete on the field that day was the commitment to do the best they were capable of. As I think about that, this is a commitment they share with athletes everywhere.
The other thing that became obvious to me was the joy the athletes exhibited when they crossed the ”finish line.” From the smiles on their faces, you could not tell whether they finished first or last. They had the joy of participating and having done their best.
I must share one very special moment that occurred during Special Olympics bowling. Mary and I had volunteered to run one of the lanes. As I recall, the athletes on our lane were 7 or 8 years old. One of the girls had significant physical challenges. In fact, the ball was barely making it down the lane. At some point in the game, she gave the ball as hard a shove as she was capable of. I remember watching the ball meander down the lane and praying, “Lord, let her knock some pins down.” That prayer was answered as her last pin toppled, earning her a strike. You should have seen the elation on her face and the joy on her mother’s face as she ran out onto the lane to give her daughter a huge hug. It was beautiful!
If you’ve never attended a Special Olympics event, you need to do it and encourage your child or grandchildren to attend with you. It will change you forever. You will never look at a sporting event the same way again. You’ll never look at your personal performance in a life event the same way again either. Have you ever started something with the thought “This is too hard. I can’t do it”? After you see these special athletes, that thought will vanish. At least it did for me.
I started off mentioning Rotary’s commitment to Special Olympics. A Rotary annual fundraiser, Shoot For The Green, a $1 million hole-in-one golf competition, is near. It is held annually at the Dalton Golf and Country Club. This year’s event, the ninth annual, is scheduled for Saturday, May 17. Participants can purchase balls to try to get closest to a pin. A qualifying round will last from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. that day with the 10 closest shots to the pin advancing to the finals and getting a chance to make a shot worth $1 million. The finals will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m.
We hope you will attend this worthwhile event and support the Rotary Club in its commitment to Special Olympians. For more information or to sign up in advance, contact Zach Hash at (706) 278-0707 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may register the day of the event at the DGCC golf course.
Werner and Mary Braun live in Dalton. He is the retired president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.