Special Olympics serves well

Published 12:27 am Sunday, May 10, 2009

If you’ve been reading the sports section this past week, you will have noticed a couple of stories about our local Mississippi Special Olympics team.

There was an article about the Special Olympics swim team getting ready to participate in the Mississippi Special Olympics Summer Games in Biloxi on May 17, and in today’s edition there is an article about the golf tournament that raised about $18,000 for the team.

And last month, there was yet another article about the Special Olympics team. That one was about their track meet at Natchez High School.

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So why cover the Special Olympics so much? Because it’s a very important organization in the community that gives kids a chance to participate in sports that wouldn’t normally get to.

Athletes that play for local high school teams train most of the year to prepare for their sport or sports.

They practice hard and do all the necessary things they need in order to perform their best in the game.

Then, when game time comes, they get to put on their uniform and represent their team in the competition.

Without the area Special Olympics team, students with disabilities wouldn’t get to experience those feelings.

They would be stuck on the sidelines or in the stands, only imagining what it would be like to cross the finish line first in the 100-meter dash, sink a 30-foot putt or swim the length of an Olympic size pool to take home a gold medal.

However, because of the generosity of volunteers, sponsors and local who generously donate to the organization, local youths with disabilities get to live out those dreams and participate in sports rather than just watching.

I spoke to one of those athletes after the golf tournament on Saturday.

Randy Bielefeld is a senior at Natchez High School who loves sports.

Bielefeld is a manager for the Natchez High girls basketball team and is always willing to do anything he can to help the team.

He also loves golf and participates on the NHS golf team as well.

I could really tell he got a thrill out of playing golf with some very good local players.

The team he was on finished third in the championship flight and he was proud of the accomplishment.

“This is a learning experience for me,” he said. “I did well the first time I came out here (to play in the tournament two years ago) and didn’t play so well last year. But this year I felt comfortable and relaxed. I really enjoyed playing in it.”

And like all the Special Olympic athletes, Bielefeld was thankful to be given the opportunity to compete.

“I’m glad that the Special Olympics organizers allow us to play,” he said. “It was an honor and a privilege to play in the tournament.”

And the same could be said by the people who get to watch these athletes compete in the sports they love.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor for The Democrat. He can be reached at sports@natchezdemocrat.com.