Special Olympics is remarkable event

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Special Olympics Winter Games will begin February 7, in Boise, Idaho. One hundred and seven nations will send these truly special athletes to compete.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics, competition for athletes with learning or physical handicaps, in 1968. One thousand athletes competed in that first competition. Over 2.8 million athletes will compete in 2009.

The first Special Olympics in Lawrence County was held at Fairland in 1974 under the direction of Sharon Blankenship.

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Just three units of students participated. In 1977 Special Olympics became an agency of United Way. A Governing Board was formed with each local school district, MR/DD, the County Special Education Supervisor, and me, the County Work-Study Coordinator forming the the first board. I helped write the first Governing Board Constitution and served as a member until my retirement from public education in 1999.

By 1979, the entire county educational system was participating with over 500 athletes involved. I was privileged to serve as County Special Olympics Coordinator in 1976, 1977, 1979, and 1980.

I am beginning my second year as a member of the Lawrence County Board of MR/DD.

It is a great pleasure to continue to work with the wonderful special children and adults under the MR/DD umbrella: Early Childhood Center, Open Door School, and Tri-State Industries, Inc.

I am looking forward to watching TV coverage of the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games in Boise, Idaho, beginning February 7.

Check your TV schedules for viewing times and join me in watching this truly remarkable event.

Mike Nourse is a retired educator and contributing columnist for The Tribune. He lives in Coal Grove with wife Clara Gail, also a retired educator.