Northeastern State University hosted a regional Special Olympics event Thursday, March 31, at Doc Wadley Stadium, with many student-athletes and coaches from a variety of NSU sports volunteering and interacting throughout the day.
It was a fun, relaxing day full of different sports such as bocce, beanbag toss and running events. Thursday marked the second consecutive year NSU has hosted the fun and field day for Special Olympics, and the first time the event was held at Doc Wadley Stadium.
“It’s pretty awesome [that we were able to use the football field],” said Shayla Stewart, the Special Olympic coach at Grand View Schools, who helped organize the event. “This year Tony Duckworth [NSU Athletic Director] was really nice to let us use the football field, and all the athletes as soon as they walked onto the field were really excited about it.”
There were five districts and eight schools, which totaled about 100 athletes, who participated in the event on Thursday.
“We want this to become an annual thing,” Stewart said. “It’s already bigger than it was last year. Our hope is, next year, more schools from outside the area will want to come and participate.”
KD Moore, a senior basketball player for NSU, loves just seeing the kids happy as they participate in the events.
“Just seeing them so happy that they get to do stuff like normal kids is amazing. It’s a blessing,” Moore said.
Blayne Armstrong, a freshman football player for NSU who helped with the beanbag toss, loves the relationships that are built through helping with the event.
“My favorite part is just getting to know these kids and the relationships you build,” said Armstrong. “I remember some of the kids I met with last year [when I helped] and seeing them again this year and seeing the smiles on their faces when they come up to me is just a good experience. It warms my heart.”
It’s very evident that the kids love the NSU athletes that come and help, and that experience is very special for Kasee Horton, a freshman soccer player for NSU.
“When you’re little, you always have someone to look up to, so it’s really interesting to be in the position for someone to look up to you,” said Horton.
Horton loves the unique opportunity NSU athletes have to help with the kids who participate.
“Just being here and being around the kids is so much fun to me,” Horton said. “It’s not everyday that you get to come out and experience stuff like this. It’s fun to incorporate the athletic aspect with helping people.”
But ultimately, it’s the kids who make the experience terrific for Horton.
“Just seeing the smiles and everything at the end [is my favorite],” Horton said. “Seeing these kids experience winning and losing and still smiling and having a good time is the best.”