Special Olympics is 'back at it'

From left are Cpls. Scott Irvin and Todd Harris of the Arkansas State Police; and Theresa Book, Special Olympics Arkansas Northeast and North Central Field Representative, on the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run in Northeast Arkansas Monday. The torch they carry will be one of four to arrive June 17 at the state Capitol. All will then be carried to Harding Stadium in Searcy later that day.

Special Olympics Arkansas has announced “Back at it” as the 2021 theme for Summer Games.

Spectators, volunteers and competitors will notice a few changes this year to ensure safety measures can be followed. The 2021 festivities kicked off with the Law Enforcement Torch Run on Monday. Officers from all over the state began carrying the Flame of Hope in their cities.

The iconic flame will make its way to Little Rock by Thursday, June 17. During a press conference that day on the Capitol Steps at 9:30 a.m. the four flames from all corners of the state will come together to form the Final Leg Torch. Officers and a convoy made up of Centennial Bank, Stallion Transportation, and more than 100 law enforcement agencies will make their way to Searcy to run the Flame of Hope into Opening Ceremonies. Typically, the Torch Run and Summer Games occur in the same week. This year officers will be running into Harding stadium without the 3,000 spectators. The group will be filming a virtual Opening Ceremony to send to all teams participating in 2021 Summer Games the following week.

The week of June 24-25, more than 400 athletes will travel to Harding University in a staggered fashion to compete in the 2021 Special Olympics Arkansas Summer Games. Athletes and coaches will arrive on campus for their scheduled event time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to compete in one of four sports; Tennis, Powerlifting, Track and Field, or Swimming. Athletes across the state train year-round for the opportunity to show their ability at this competition.

“We have eagerly made the changes to our event so that we can ensure we are ‘Back at it’ safely for our athletes and families,” said Terri Weir, Special Olympics Arkansas CEO. “Even with changes one thing will be sure. Our athletes will come out and give it all they have. They will remind us what resilience and determination look like. They will fill our hearts with warmth and energy. I know I am ready for that.”

When they are not competing athletes will be able to spend time in the Power up Picnic area sponsored by Ridout Lumber, purchase 2021 Summer Games souvenirs, and participate in Healthy Athletes screenings. Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® is a worldwide health program designed around events through which Special Olympics volunteers and partners improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities and address health conditions such as chronic pain, disease, blindness, hearing loss and shortened life span that needlessly affect this underserved population. Through its sub-programs, Healthy Athletes offers health exams for podiatry (Fit Feet), dentistry (Special Smiles®), audiology (Healthy Hearing), vision (Opening Eyes®), physical therapy (FUNfitness), sports physicals (MedFest®), overall health and wellbeing (Health Promotion) and the importance of emotional wellness (Strong Minds).

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