Seymour and Jackson County have everything they need for a Special Olympics Indiana program.
For one thing, there’s no shortage of athletes with special needs who want to compete in any of the many sporting events that are organized by Special Olympics Indiana.
There’s also no shortage of volunteers willing to help out at those competitions.
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And there’s plenty of sports venues including Seymour High School’s Bulliet Stadium for those events.
But there is one thing missing at this time — no Special Olympics Jackson County program.
The south regional director for Special Olympics Indiana, however, hopes to fill that gap in the near future and took a step toward doing so on Saturday.
“This is the first time we have had the area meet in Seymour,” Francie Smith said while taking break from her job of overseeing the District 2 spring track and field meet at Bulleit Stadium.
More than 180 athletes from the District 2 counties that do have programs competed in a variety of running, throwing and jumping events during the day-long meet, which serves as a prelude to the 49th annual state meet on June 9-10 at Terre Haute.
“Next year is our big year,” Smith said.
The meet at Seymour included athletes from a joint program comprised of Bartholomew, Brown and Jennings counties, a second team comprised of competitors from Jefferson and Scout counties and individual programs from Washington, Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties.
Smith said there are many athletes in Jackson County who would like to participate in Special Olympic programs and they aren’t excluded just because there isn’t a county program in place at this time.
“They are welcome to join other programs until we can get this Jackson County program going,” she said.
Some athletes, in fact, competed with the Bartholomew, Brown and Jennings program on Saturday and others including 14-year-old Jonathan Boyd of Brownstown competed with the Washington County program.
“Every event they have, he does,” Boyd’s grandmother, Deborah Vincent of Brownstown, said. That includes the standing long jump, the softball throw and the 50-meter dash.
Each athlete competes in a division based upon their abilities.
Vincent, who was a member of the Special Olympics Jackson County board, said Special Olympics is important to her grandson.
“I think it builds him up as far as going out in public and participating and it teaches him to take turns,” she said.
She said she just wanted to keep him in Special Olympics and is in favoring of seeing the Jackson County program brought back to life.
“We looked into Salem and Bartholomew County and it just seemed like Washington County was a better fit for the Jonathan’s needs,” she said.
Smith said the decision was made to hold the spring meet at Seymour for a couple of reasons including that fact Jackson County doesn’t have a program and the condition of Bulliet Stadium.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” she said.
Seymour High School also has been involved in an Indiana High School Athletic Association’s program called Champions Together for the past three years and started the Inclusion Revolution track meet a couple of years ago. The school also has raised $1,500 for Special Olympics.
Because of those programs, Seymour has a good core of students willing to serve as volunteers for events such as Special Olympics spring meet.
“So I thought let’s bring Special Olympics to Jackson County,” Smith said.
Those volunteers included 15-year-old freshman Haidy Romero.
“I work with Room 111 kids — a special needs class — and I think the idea of a track meet for them is just awesome,” she said. “I really just wanted to come out and help.”
Romero also has helped at the other track and field events for special needs athletes at Seymour.
“I love it seeing everyone so happy and cheerful and that everyone can do the same thing and it makes me really glad,” she said.
Freshman Kassidy Schryer, who also is 15, said volunteering just seemed like a cool thing to do to help out.
“It’s really fun,” she said. “They are a lot more spirited than I thought they might be.”
The spring meet is not the only regional Special Olympics Indiana event held here.
The Seymour Noon Lions Club has organized a regional Special Olympics basketball tournament in early January at Seymour Middle School since 1983. For the first time in many years, there was not a Jackson County team in the tournament.
Smith said an effort is in the works to establish a program in Jackson County. Once reestablished, there will be a need for a county coordinator, a sports coordinator and other officers to help fill out a board.
Anyone wishing to help out may contact her at 812-664-2310 or at [email protected].