By Mark Rountree
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When he began participating in Special Olympics three years ago, Dylon Jones was shy, bashful and withdrawn.
But those three words would not be how the Glencoe Elementary School fourth-grader is described today.
“Dylon didn’t want to do athletics of any kind,” said Sherryl Dickens, who has been a Special Olympics coach for 14 years, including the last eight years at Glencoe as a pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade teacher. “In Special Olympics, he feels like he does everything that everybody else does. His self-esteem has gotten so much better. It’s been wonderful for him.”
Jones’ self-esteem was sky-high Thursday afternoon as he won his heat in the 50-meter dash in front of several hundred screaming fans at the Special Olympics Summer Games at the Oklahoma State University track complex.
Dickens said the Games allow Special Olympics athletes, like Jones, a chance to participate and compete.
“The kids see that they can do something,” Dickens said. “They are succeeding.”
Dickens said this is the first year Glencoe has participated in the Stars of the Future event for children 7 years old and younger.
Glencoe had five athletes competing in the Games, including Jones, sixth-grader Marc Sloan, pre-kindergarten student Kord Dotter, first-grader Riley Hoffman and pre-school student Wyatt Clark.
The team is coached by Dickens, Cindy Baker, Terry Smith, Cody Smith, Macy Dickens and Lindy Tucker.
The Glencoe athletes had their own cheering section on Wednesday when 28 sixth-graders were let out of school to attend the Games.
The Glencoe athletes went through the area competition at Frontier Public Schools to prepare for the Games.
“This is amazing,” said Dickens. “This is the highlight of my year. It’s a good way to end the year. We’ve finished testing and then we get to do this.”
Special Olympics Oklahoma Marketing and Communications Director Donna Ham said a record number of Special Olympics athletes — 4,626 — participated in the Games this year, taking part in sports, visiting the Special Olympics village or assisting athletes.
The 44th-annual Games began Wednesday with opening ceremonies at Gallagher-Iba Arena and the law enforcement torch run.
Final competitions and the closing ceremonies are Friday.
Stillwater has hosted the three-day event for 30 consecutive years.
“I could talk for hours about the community here and how they open up the city for us,” Ham said.
She said planning for next year’s Games will begin at the conclusion of this year’s event.
“It’s such a big event, it takes a lot of planning,” Ham said. “There are about 200 or 300 people on the planning committee that are die-hard volunteers.”