By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON — —
More than 300 special athletes gathered at Mt. Vernon Township High School for the annual Special Olympics Area 14 Spring Games on Friday.
Opening ceremony athletes from Mt. Vernon Township High School kicked off the event, with Caleb and Elmo Cain singing the National Anthem, and torch runners to light the official game torch being escorted by members of the Mt. Vernon Police Department. The first carrier was Amanda Grider, escorted by Cpl. Dan Hattendorf; Deshon Howard, escorted by Patrolman Ray Gilbert; Molly Heierman, escorted by Sgt. Jim Hawkins; and Bobby Patton, escorted by Assistant Chief Chris Deichman.Dakota Artis led the crowd in the Special Olympics oath; and Hannah Thomas and Adam Adkins carried the Special Olympics banner.
A special recognition was given to Mt. Vernon Township High School as the only high school in Southern Illinois involved in Project Unify.
"This is a new iniative for middle schools and high school that focuses on peer unity as an extra-curricular offering," information from Special Olympic Area 14 Director Rhonda Knight states. "The program is designed to develop tomorrow's leaders with a true sense of unity and equality."
Teams participating this year in the games were:
Mt. Vernon Addus Evergreen Club with five athletes;
Brownsville School, Carmi, with 53 athletes;
Centralia High School, with six athletes;
Colonial Apartments, Centralia, with 16 athletes;
Diamond View in Centralia with 12 athletes;
Family Counseling Services, Golconda and Vienna, with 46 athletes;
Hardin County Cougars from Elizabethtown with 11 athletes;
Harrisburg Dawgs with one athlete;
Harrisburg East Side School with eight athletes;
Harrisburg High School with seven athletes;
Harrisburg Middle School with eight athletes;
Harrisburg West Side Primary with five athletes;
Hays Independent of Salem with two athletes;
JC Jets of Mt. Vernon with 40 athletes;
Kaskaskia Workshop, Centralia, with 17 athletes;
Kieffer Independent, Mt. Carmel, with nine athletes;
Mt. Vernon Mavericks with four athletes;
Murray Center, Centralia, with 18 athletes;
Oak Terrace, Mt. Vernon, with 12 athletes;
Purple Miracles of Dahlgren Elementary;
South Central High School Cougars with two athletes;
South Central Middle School with six athletes; and
Summersville Grade School with five athletes.
More than 200 coaches were at the games with their teams.