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Nothing but smiles at Special Olympics

NATCHEZ — Every athlete was a winner at the Special Olympics event at Natchez High School Friday as it seemed nothing would wipe the smiles off the children’s faces.

More than 250 special-needs children participated in events ranging from assisted and unassisted walking, running and wheelchair races, long jump, tennis and softball throw and bocce.

Though the athletes with the best times and distances will advance to the state Special Olympics May 9, winning wasn’t a factor.

Every special-need child was smiling and laughing as they enjoyed their day of activities and comradery with one another and the volunteers.

Special Olympic athlete Britni Welch, who has competed in the event for more than 10 years, was one of many who enjoyed participating in the Special Olympics.

“There was no assisting on the wheelchair event, so she has to wheel it herself,” Britni’s mother Lisa said. “It’s the highlight of her year. She had a bunch of people, her friends, nieces and nephews and our neighbors come out and support her.”

brittney lohmiller | The Natchez Democrat Britni Welch participated in the 25-meter unassisted wheelchair race and the tennis throw in the Special Olympics track and field meet at Natchez High School.  Kiana Jones, a senior at Natchez High, spent the morning with Welch working as a volunteer.
brittney lohmiller | The Natchez Democrat
Britni Welch participated in the 25-meter unassisted wheelchair race and the tennis throw in the Special Olympics track and field meet at Natchez High School. Kiana Jones, a senior at Natchez High, spent the morning with Welch working as a volunteer.

Welch won first place in the softball throw with a distance of 24 feet, 7 inches, and second place in the 25-meter wheelchair race with a time of 17.02 seconds.

Area 7 Special Olympics director Tommie Jones said the ambiance was a sense of joy, accomplishment and pride for every one.

“To see the athletes’ smiles on their faces and the feel of accomplishment that they felt, it’s just heartwarming,” Tommie Jones said. “You can feel it (in the air).”

Welch’s volunteer was Natchez High senior Kiana Jones, and Jones said she was able to see a different side of joy Friday.

“It makes me happy to see them so happy out here enjoying things we take for granted,” Kiana Jones said. “This was a special day, it doesn’t matter if they come in first or last place. It was their day.”

Tommie Jones said she was happy to see the amount of volunteers from Natchez High support the athletes.

“They came to me wanting to do this,” Tommie Jones said. “It was good for the regular kids to become a part of this.”