May 24, 2017
By: Kristi Fulkerson
Earlier this month Whitehall High School played host to the annual Special Olympics Lehigh County Track & Field Day, welcoming close to 700 athletes and more than double that in total attendees. It’s always a favorite event of mine to cover because it’s so uplifting and special! Every year it’s the same track and field events, hosted by many of the same organizers and volunteers, featuring many of the same athletes - but the experience is always unique.
The event always begins with a welcome, several guest speakers, and plenty of cheering and encouragement for the games ahead! The national anthem was sung by athlete Cheyenne Burton followed by the Special Olympics oath led by Samantha Lurwick, Special Olympics Global Messenger and athlete.
“Let me win, but if i cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Once the games were officially declared open, my videographer, Ian, and I wandered through the ‘meet’ and captured so many great moments. It is important to note that these athletes train for the T&F events (it’s mandatory) and are very competitive!
I loved having a chance to meet and interact with some of the participants including Rachel Arner, a Whitehall sophomore softball player, and 8-year-old athlete Zaki Miller, who had just gotten a ribbon for his standing long jump performance. All three of us sitting on the ground together, Zaki was initially afraid of the camera (and microphone) but before long was helping me do my job. After prying my fingers off the mic, he held on tight as Rachel explained why she enjoyed being at the event and then turned the mic on me asking, ‘what about you?“
To which I replied, “I’m very happy to be here with you, too!” An understatement, of course.
Over the course of two hours, it was heartwarming to witness (and share with our viewers) the awesome efforts by the organizers, volunteers, and athletes! I also learned that Zaki loves to run (and be chased by his buddy), that many high school students are doing their part to give back, and that everyone deserves their day in the sun.
Special Olympics Lehigh County provides year-round competition in more than a dozen sports, all free of charge to athletes and their families. Visit specialolympicslehighcounty.org to support their efforts!