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May 1, 2013

Special Olympics continuing to change lives

Fifteen-year-old Cullman Development Center student Karsyn McWaters didn’t hesitate with her ‘yes’ answer when asked if she would compete in the Cullman County Special Olympics again next year.

For McWaters, this is her second year competing, and like many she has an event she always looks forward to.

“I like the long jumps, but I like running more,” McWaters said.

She said she’s made many friends through the event, not just with the other competitors, but volunteers as well. Cullman High school student and volunteer Janie Flynn described the experience as humbling and life-changing.

“I’m sure if you went and asked one of those participating if they had a disability, none of them would say they did, they are all just so passionate,” Flynn said. “They always have a smile on their face and are just so fun to watch and work with. It’s been such a humbling experience.”

Flynn encourages other students to become involved with the Special Olympics in years to come.

“I think that it’s a good experience for both the kids and those who get to work it,” Flynn said. “It’s fun on both ends honestly. We normally do the Special Olympics every year, so hopefully we will continue to do it for a long time.”

Zack Johnson, a 16-year-old student at the Cullman Development Center has attended the Special Olympics for many years, but he said what was most important was having the support of his family there and making friends.

“It’s really awesome, I especially love that my dad and my stepmom came out to see it,” Johnson said. “I made a lot of friends- Karsyn (McWaters) is here and she’s my best friend.”

Father of Zack, Jeff Johnson said he loves to watch his son enjoy himself at the event.

“He’s been going to the CDC for 11 years, so he’s been involved with this quite a lot,” Jeff said. “I like to come out here and see them all having a good time. When they come home, they like to show off all the ribbons they got and talk about the friends they made, and what they got to eat; they always love talking about what they ate. The most important thing about this is everybody being out here and enjoying themselves.”

Cullman High School hosted the event at Oliver Woodard Stadium, from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Many area high school’s were represented by student volunteers.

Lauren Estes can be reached at laurene@cullmantimes or at 256-734-2131, ext 270.

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