Special Olympians gather for games
by Jeff Eason
"We started the Special Olympics Winter Games here in 1978, and we've hosted it every year since then," said Jim Cottrell, director of Appalachian Ski Mountain's French-Swiss Ski College.
The regional competition of the Special Olympics Winter Games included skiers and snowboarders from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The Southeastern finals of the Winter Games will take place in February at Appalachian Ski Mountain and will include competitors from across the Southeast.
At Sunday's Special Olympics opening ceremony, the Rev. Marion Swann gave an invocation and led the athletes in the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner."
Special Olympian Stephanie Jamie of Davie County lit the Olympic torch with an assist from Appalachian State University Police Department patrol officers Marc Strickland, Daniel Harless and James Robertson.
Jamie is one of four Special Olympians at last weekend's event who will be competing in the 2013 World Winter Special Olympics in the Republic of Korea in February.
Zach Butler, Katie Carter and Rory Kinane will join Jamie on the journey to represent the United States on the world stage.
At last weekend's event at Appalachian Ski Mountain, athletes were divided into different categories depending on their skiing ability and experience. Special Olympic coaches led different groups to the various slopes at Appalachian Ski Mountain for individual timed competition in skiing and snowboarding.
On Monday afternoon, the athletes gathered in Appalachian Ski Mountain's lodge for the annual awards ceremony. Former Appalachian State University Athletic Director Roachel Laney, a longtime organizer for Special Olympics North Carolina, was the emcee and announced the names of all of the competitors as they received their awards at the podium.
Several Special Olympians from Watauga County appeared on the medal podium during last weekend's Winter Games. Ricky Corley earned a gold medal, Noah Crosswell earned a silver medal, and Clint Miller earned a bronze medal, all in alpine skiing events.
Each year, the Special Olympics Winter Games depends on the work of dozens of volunteers to organize events, time races, hand out medals and other duties.
This year, nine volunteers came to the games from Chobani Greek Yogurt's office in Charlotte."Charlotte is our newest office, and like we do in New York State and Idaho, we encouraged our staff members to find local events where we can become involved in the community," said Don Brown, a volunteer coordinator for Chobani. "The Special Olympics Winter Games just seemed like a perfect fit for us and we have had a great time over the past two days. We love to connect with the communities in North Carolina. We are a family company and we encourage our employees to explore volunteerism as a way to become a greater part of the community."
"We will definitely be back," he said.