State Summer Games continues for the 49th year

Jonathan Rhodes

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The 2017 State Summer Games attracted athletes, families and volunteers to participate in and celebrate its 49th year. Events included bocce and a volleyball tournament among others. 
Jonathan Rhodes/ The Lion's Roar 

Special Olympics Louisiana united communities across the state to participate in the annual State Summer Games. This is the 49th State Summer Games. The past few summer games being held at the university.

Special Olympics Louisiana President Pat Carpenter Bourgeois enjoys having the games on campus each year.

“It’s always great for the athletes to come to Southeastern,” said Bourgeois. “They really feel like it’s home. They were here before and they are back again and they love the campus. We heard from some of our athletes on their way and they were so excited as if it was their first event.”

The State Summer Games does not only involve athletes with disabilities. According to Bourgeois, the purpose of the games is to create an atmosphere that recognizes the athletes with disabilities and allows them to have a great time.

“For them, it’s not truly about how many goals they are gonna score in volleyball or how fast they are gonna run in track and field but it’s the fact that they are seeing their friends again,” said Bourgeois. “That they are able to play with people without disabilities on teams. They are coming together they are being included and accepted, so it’s just a wonderful atmosphere.”

The State Summer Games are kicked off every year by the Law Enforcement Torch Run in which law enforcement across the state carry the Flame of Hope from parish to parish until they reach Strawberry Stadium. The local law enforcement is proud to participate in the event every year.

“It’s very special to me because I have been a coach for the past six years and this is the first time I have been able to participate in the torch run myself,” said Livingston Parish police officer Mary Ballard.

The athletes that volunteer do so to encourage the athletes with disabilities. Most of the volunteers have family members that are also athletes with disabilities that participate along with them.

Former professional athlete Danny Johnston volunteers because of his passion to work with intellectually disabled athletes.

“You have to have a special calling or a special feeling about yourself to work with these guys,” said Johnston. “You can’t just work with this group of people for money you have to have a passion for it and with that it makes it real easy. My brother was intellectually incapable and I didn’t understand it but I went to school I learned how to better help him growing up. So by him having his disabilities, I knew it was something that was meant for me.”

The disabled athletes appreciate the opportunity Special Olympics gives them and how it makes them feel about themselves.

“I’ve been coming to Special Olympics for six years,” said Special Olympics athlete Artis Leary. “It’s always fun and you feel comfortable. It’s a free environment. It doesn’t matter who wins. What matters is that you enjoy yourself and make friends.”   

An athlete pushes off for her jump. After their events, athletes were awarded medals. 
Zachary Araki/ The Lion's Roar 

The games had an area for athletes and families to take a break and participate in carnival games for small prizes. The area included a dunk tank, karaoke and balloon animals. 
Zachary Araki/ The Lion's Roar 

An athlete at the State Summer Games prepares for a race. Multiple races were held at the track complex. Athletes were cheered on by family, teammates and coaches. 
Zachary Araki/ The Lion's Roar 

A volleyball tournament spanned the last two days of the games. Teammates encouraged each other during play. 
Jonathan Rhodes/ The Lion's Roar 

 

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