PARKERSBURG - More than 500 Special Olympics athletes from 29 counties across the Mountain State gathered at Parkersburg South High School Friday for the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Special Olympics West Virginia Fall Games.
John Corbett, executive director, said along with the 525 athletes there were another 200 volunteer coaches and chaperones.
"The coaches and chaperones help make this experience possible," he said.
Members of the Parkersburg South High School Junior ROTC color guard at the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Special Olympics West Virginia Fall Games at Parkersburg South High School Friday. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
Carrying the banner for the Jackson County delegation during the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Special Olympics West Virginia Games Friday are, from left, Darla Blankenship, Sarah Harmon and Sara Parker. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
Corbett said despite the remnants of Hurricane Sandy that tore through the state, it did not affect the number of participants in the games
"We had a number of counties that had to deal with power outages and other inconveniences that many folks got through safe and sound," he said. "They were able to travel here and make this a positive experience."
There were no changes in the programs or games offered: bowling, volleyball, flag football and football skills.
"We have found over the last couple of years what works," Corbett said. "We know what the athletes like and we're always open to suggestions to add other sports. Right now we offer what they prefer."
Corbett said there was an addition to the volleyball schedule.
"We will have unified volleyball," he said. "We take Special Olympics athletes and pair them with non-Special Olympics athletes of similar abilities so they can compete."
The Fall Games have been in Parkersburg for about 20 years. Special Olympics programming in the state dates back to 1968 and Special Olympics West Virginia was incorporated in 1977, Corbett said.
There will be about 175 volunteers from the Parkersburg area to assist the athletes with their competitions and social activities, he said.
Friday's ceremonies concluded with the presentation of awards.
Gail Rice, of Harrison County, was the recipient of the Lois Earley Spirit of Volunteerism Award. There were 11 winners of the J. Fred Earley Sportsmanship Award. They were:
* Luther Bennett, Boone County
* Matthew Elcesser, Brooke County
* Steven Bragg, Fayette County
* Joseph Canterbury, Greenbrier County
* Kim Aylor, Harrison County
* Alex Collins, Kanawha County
* Encil Johns, Marshall County
* Ryan Doddrill, Nicholas County
* Kayla Shahan, Preston County
* Tasha Carrico, Upshur County
* Ken Saxton, Wood County