Making it Happen: Hinson leads efforts to help local athletes participate in state Special Olympics
Published 4:20 pm Thursday, May 5, 2022
NATCHEZ — Athletes from Area 7 in the Mississippi Special Olympics will ride in style to the competition held in Biloxi May 14-15.
COVID robbed the athletes in the Mississippi Special Olympics of competition the past two years and made the fundraising needed to make the trip difficult this year.
Natchezian Mallory Hinson said she could remember her sister Briana Mophett competing in the Special Olympics at 7 or8 years old.. For 11 years, Hinson watched her sister compete in swimming or bowling.
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And while COVID created challenges for everyone, Hinson said her sister struggled most with the loss of routines and contact with her friends.
“She didn’t get to see her friends,” Hinson said. “She would talk all the time asking when she could see her friends. If she had been exposed to COVID it wouldn’t have gone well. It was a toll on her emotionally. She felt isolated. We know how it felt and we could see it in her eyes.”
But for the first time since the pandemic began, Special Olympics athletes in Mississippi will compete again this year.
Hinson said her sister calls at 10 a.m. every day to talk about practices and how excited she is to compete.
So when Hinson traveled home from Starkville in early April, she was heartbroken to learn the athletes may not be able to make the trip to the state games.
Area 7 usually hosts a golf tournament and ball drop to raise money for the trip, but could not this year due to COVID.
Hinson said she thought about what she could do to help and thought of the organizations and Greek life at Mississippi State University. Working with Area Coordinator Tommie Jones, she went to work.
“I wasn’t going to have (my sister) miss the opportunity. We raised the $4,200 needed to get the charter buses to take them down there,” Hinson said. “I was a little worried we wouldn’t reach the goal, but so many of the participants in Area 7 are loved down there. My Greek life organization is so loving. It felt good so many people loved them and cared about getting them there.”
The competition is now two weeks away and Hinson is excited to watch her sister compete.“I can not explain the joy these people feel and the amount of happiness they exude,” Hinson said. “When they can do what they love and be with their friends. Being with them is like the closest I can find God’s joy in this life. I’m excited to see them participate again. They are way more excited than anybody else could be.”
Area 7 is still seeking donations for the athletes going to the national event in Orlando, Florida on June 5-12, 2022. Nathan Gaude will compete in swimming and Michael Champ will compete in bowling. Coaches Charles Cothern and Patrice Cothern need help covering travel costs.
You can mail all donations to the state office, Special Olympics Mississippi, 2906 North State Street Suite 206, Jackson, MS 39216. Please put on your check the name of the athlete or coach you are donating to for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. If you have any questions you can contact Tommie Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org