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Iron Blade

Special Athletes

Panther team members volunteer for competitions
Photo courtesy of Erin Saleeby
Madison Cruz, junior, instructs members of the Special Olympics Soccer Team prior to the coin toss.
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  • Aukeim Mitchel, freshman; Deontae Lawson, freshman; and Ryon Johnson, junior; cheer on pickle ball players.

  • Michael Hamm, junior, brings a ball back into play for a pickle ball game.

  • Madison Cruz, junior, refs a soccer game and retrieves a ball that has been kicked out of bounds.

  • Aubrie Hixon, junior; and Jessie Howison, freshman; keep scores for the soccer game.

  • Will Davis, sophomore; and Hunter Hooper, junior; retrieve stray balls from the game.

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“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

That motto kicked off the Special Olympics.

It was a cold morning in Bridgewater, VA–and an athletic event reminds those in attendance that competing is for the brave.

Students, athletes, coaches, and families gathered at Bridgewater College to participate or volunteer in the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics events consisted of Pickleball, Volleyball, and Soccer.

Students from Bridgewater, Averett University, Eastern Mennonite University, Ferrum, and Washington and Lee University were divided into different sports to spectate, ball keep, and keep scores for the different teams playing. Pickleball and soccer were held outside, while volleyball was held on the practice courts of Bridgewater.

“I was a ball roller for volleyball, and that meant I got to stand at the courts and feel the people come together and have no other worries than for their respective sport. (It) put a new light on how I view things in a good way,” said Hunter Hooper, junior.

Seeing society progress and become inclusive of those who are different is a testament of power and unity, and to witness the joy and dedication of every student was the highlight of the event for many of the volunteers.

“It was a great experience. Seeing people that may be different from me enjoying the same thing I do, sports and friendly competition. It is something I’d like to look forward to in the future,” Ryon Johnson, senior, said.

In addition, the camaraderie among the athletes further emphasizes the true essence of sportsmanship and reinforces the idea of Together Stronger.

According to volunteers, this gathering shows that the competitive spirit can coexist harmoniously with kindness and compassion. The athletes are an integral part of the event. They say the Special Olympics serves as a vivid reminder that the world is indeed a better place when we come together and embrace one another.

“I witnessed the patience they had for one another; they would assist each other to get up, knowing it would be challenging, but the level of selflessness being displayed was incredible to witness,” Olivia Turner, junior.

The Special Olympics says it promotes an environment to celebrate individual’s disabilities, and coaches, volunteers, and spectators ensured that all athletes were adequately attended to. The ethos of these individuals is to create an atmosphere in which the athletes feel recognized and supported.

“I think it was really good not only working with other schools, which we don’t get to do very often unless we are competing on the field,” Erin Saleeby, women’s soccer coach said. “It was really positive; athletes were excited and connected well, and they all did a really good job.”

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Refentse Maselwa
I am Refentse Maselwa but everyone calls me Ree. I am from Pretoria, South Africa. I am a sophomore majoring in Accounting and minoring in Journalism. I play field hockey. 
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