RiverKings to Highlight Special Olympics

By: Whitley Rives

December 30, 2011

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. - The Mississippi RiverKings will feature the works of Special Olympics—Area 16 on Tuesday, Jan. 3 when the RiverKings take on the Mississippi Surge.

Current Area 16 Director Brenda Smith and Assistant Director Carol Gamblin became involved with the organization when their daughters began participating at age 8.

“Special Olympics is important, as it allows the athletes to participate in sports they may not be able to in their community or school,” Gamblin said. “It helps build confidence, courage and physical fitness. It brings happiness to the athletes and their families. The athletes look forward to competing at the local and State events. They build friendships with other athletes around the State.”

The mission of Special Olympics as stated on the organization’s website is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for individuals with intellectual disabilities by giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Gamblin and Smith have seen these things firsthand in the lives of their daughters and in the lives of countless other individuals with intellectual disabilities who have participated in Special Olympics programs.

“We enjoy seeing the smiles and excitement on the faces of all the athletes as they compete and win a ribbon or medal,” Smith said. “Special Olympics’ motto is ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.’ It is really amazing to see that happen and be a part of it.”
The goal of Special Olympics—Area 16 is for all persons with intellectual disabilities to have the chance to become useful and productive citizens who are accepted and respected in their communities.

Special Olympics serves more than 1 million persons with intellectual disabilities in more than 160 countries. That number is expected to double by the year 2005.
Worldwide, more than 3.7 million athletes ages 8 years old and up from more than 170 countries participate in Special Olympics, which includes 32 Olympic-style summer and winter sports. There is also a Young Athletes program for children ages 2 to 7.

Locally, Special Olympics—Area 16 Mississippi serves more than 200 athletes in DeSoto, Tate, Tunica, Coahoma, and Quitman Counties.

“We hold four local events each year with our athletes participating in basketball, bowling, soccer/softball and track,” Smith said. “There are four State events where our athletes participate in basketball, golf, power lifting, swimming, track, softball, soccer and bowling. Our biggest fundraiser is our golf tournament held each September, and we hold fundraisers at local restaurants throughout the year.”

For more information on Special Olympics or to volunteer, please contact Carol Gamblin or Brenda Smith at specialolyarea16@yahoo.com.

The Mississippi RiverKings are supported by their community partners, season ticket holders, fans, and by program-related investments of the Maddox Foundation, an independent private foundation based in Hernando, Miss. To find out more about the RiverKings, call 662.342.1755 or visit www.riverkings.com.

Contributed photo

Special Olympics—Area 16 athletes get a group shot before the annual Torch Run that kicks off the State Special Olympics competition in May, 2011. The organization will be featured at the Jan. 3rd RiverKings game. From left: Amber Smith, Mary Cutright, Deandre Brown, Kassidy Bray, Jesse Wims, Kassidy Gamblin, Dewitt Wright and Lauren Smith.

Posted by Mississippi RiverKings at 4:18 PM

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