PARKERSBURG - More than 550 Special Olympics athletes from 30 counties gathered in the Rod Oldham Gymnasium at Parkersburg South High School Friday for the opening ceremonies for the 2013 Special Olympics West Virginia Fall Games.
John Corbett, CEO of Special Olympics West Virginia, said the number of special olympians and the number of the counties they represent are records for the event that has been in Parkersburg for more than 20 years.
In addition to the 550 athletes, he said there are 220 coaches and volunteers working with the teams.
Among the county teams making its way through the opening ceremony was the team from Marshall County. A record 30 counties were part of the 2013 fall games. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
"This is the largest fall games ever," he said. "We are excited to provide this experience to such a large group from across the state."
Special Olympics programming in the state dates back to 1968. Special Olympics West Virginia was incorporated in 1977.
Corbett said the program has been growing and a record number of counties are fielding teams in football.
"This year there are 10 teams," he said. "We will have the event on two fields just to accommodate them."
Corbett said the Special Olympics has been working to provide the events the particiapnts enjoy the most.
"We try to have the events they want to do and they like to do," he said. "You can see by the growth in participation we have what they want."
Corbett said only one award was to be presented at the event Friday. He said the winner of the J. Fred Earley Sportsmanship and Unsung Hero Award was Rachel Sheppard from Logan County. He said she has been participating in the Special Olympics for 30 years in bowling.
Corbett said the Lois Earley Spirit of Volunteerism Award will be presented at the winter games in February.
Major underwriters for Fall Games include Dominion Resources, Wendy's, Foodland and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.
Counties represented at this year's Fall Games are Barbour, Berkeley, Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mason, Mineral, Monongalia, Morgan, Nicholas, Preston, Putnam, Roane, Upshur, Wayne, Wirt and Wood.