PARKERSBURG - It was all about accomplishment for the participants of the Special Olympics West Virginia 2012 Fall Games held in Parkersburg this past weekend.
Over 520 athletes from 29 West Virginia counties participated in bowling, flag football, football skills and volleyball events around the area. The teams all gathered Sunday afternoon at the auditorium at Parkersburg South High School for the awards ceremony and closing ceremony.
Many athletes and teams who were awarded medals cheered and raised their arms in triumph at their own accomplishments and at what others were also able to do. Many of the participants gave each other high-fives while others worked the crowds to get as many people cheering as possible.
Photos by Brett Dunlap
Harrison Miller, left, of Harrison County, holds the torch for the Special Olympics West Virginia 2012 Fall Games, held in Parkersburg this past weekend, as Awards Director John Hannigan looks on during the closing of the games Sunday at Parkersburg South High School.
"I hope everyone had a great weekend and enjoyed your time here competing, showing your spirit, reaching your goals and spending time with your friends," said John Hannigan, Awards Director with West Virginia Special Olympics.
"I too had a great time and enjoyed watching all of the outstanding bowlers, volleyball and football players.
"I wanted to congratulate each and every athlete for being winners and true champions."
The athletes spent many weeks of preparation to be ready for this weekend of competition and the work showed, Hannigan said.
"You all did your best and should be quite proud of your efforts and the efforts of your teammates," he said. "We want the athletes to know how proud we are of your great display of your dedication, courage and ability that was showcased this weekend."
Members of the Parkersburg South High School Junior ROTC program presented the medals to the winners in each event and category.
Every year the Special Olympics for West Virginia sees participation from around the state, said John Corbett, CEO of Special Olympics West Virginia.
"We have 29 counties from West Virginia with us this weekend," he said. "Some are here year after year.
"We have a few who haven't been here for many years who have returned. It is nice that we are reaching all parts of the state with this event."
Bowling is always the most popular event at the Fall Games based on the number of participants, the football events are always spirited and volleyball is very popular, Corbett said.
"Everyone has had a great time in Parkersburg," he said.
The Special Olympics are always special with those who participate.
"I think it is their chance to be the stars," Corbett said of the athletes. "They train with their volunteer coaches for weeks leading up to this event."
There were over 200 volunteers and coaches who came in with all of the teams. In addition to that, there were a couple hundred more volunteers from the local area who helped put the games on.
"We can't do this without the volunteers," Corbett said. "It is pretty remarkable that we get such great support from the community here.
"They make sure the athletes have a good time and treat our athletes with the up most respect. They make our athletes feel very special."
The volunteers see the immediate impact they have with the smiles and hugs of the athletes.
"I think that puts a smile on the volunteers' faces as well as our athletes' faces," Corbett said.
Richard Knapp, of Boone County, was the flag football coach who saw his team win a gold medal for the second year in a row. He was very pleased with how the entire weekend went.
"This is a wonderful experience for everyone who participated," he said. "Not only is it a test of the athletes' courage and skills, it also brings them together in a social setting."
Friendships are always made at these events among participants from around the state and continue through other events year round.
"It is great for the adults," Knapp said. "I have a good time, my wife has a good time. It is a family affair for everybody. It is wonderful.
"It is like a vacation for me. It is a lot of work, but I enjoy it. It is tiring, but we all have a good time."
Heather Walls, assistant director for Special Olympics for Harrison County, said the athletes had fun competing, renewing old friendships and making new ones.
"It went great and they all had a blast," she said. "The kids loved it. They just enjoy being here.
"They always have a lot of fun."
Every year, the Special Olympics are something everyone who participates looks forward to.
"They are proud of what they accomplish here," Corbett said. "It doesn't matter if they finish first, second, third or beyond that. They are proud."
"They set out to do something and they were able to accomplish that this weekend. They will leave Parkersburg with memories that they will keep with them for a long time."