By Sarah Colson
On Friday, special education fifth grader Emma Coon got to take a big break from her homeschooling lessons and be a part of the 2016 Special Olympics at ETSU’s minidome. While there were plenty of events to be a part of, there was one in particular Emma was most looking forward to.
“I’m going to throw a softball,” the bright and cheerful Emma said after already having competed in a foot race. Outside of the Olympics, Emma likes coloring, math, and the color pink.
“Proud,” Emma’s father, Danny said. “That’s the one word I can say.”
Danny said there aren’t many days like this where he can come alongside parents from similar families and share in competition and laughter. This is the Coons’ sixth year coming.
“I’ve got to learn a lot about different disabilities,” Danny said, “and to see how they all compete and everything is really interesting. This is kind of the culmination of the whole year. It’d be nice if we could do things more often with other parents.”
Danny said realizing how long they’ve been coming to the Olympics reminds him that his 14-year-old little girl is growing up fast.
“It’s great because she gets to see a lot of her friends she knew from elementary school,” he said. “But it makes me think, man, she’s getting older. She turns 16 in a couple of years so there’s going to be a lot of big changes coming up. I’m cherishing these moments.”
Robin Murphy, physical education teacher for grades K-4 at Boones Creek Elementary, joined the fun Friday.
“It’s one of the highlights of our year we look forward to,” she said. “They enjoy it so much and it just put smiles on all their faces. It brightens up our day just to see their effort, how much they love it and the energy here.”
One of Murphy’s favorite parts of the games is seeing the kids she coached in elementary school coming back as middle schoolers and high schoolers to play and to cheer on the younger ones.
“It’s like a homecoming,” she said. “You see all these kids you’ve gotten to work with throughout the years and they’ve grown up but they’re still smiling. It really puts things in perspective. The regular education classes are great but to see their love of life…they just lay everything out there. It’s really precious.”
Moments from the Special Olympics
Athletes from throughout the Johnson City metro area gathered Friday for a day of competition and good sportsmanship. After an opening parade of athletes and torch lighting, the Science Hill High School color guard presented the colors. Athletes from Washington, Carter, Johnson and Unicoi counties participated in the standing long jump, softball throw, sprints and wheelchair races.
Throughout a busy day, athletes strove to do their best and exemplified the Special Olympics oath: Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.