By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Hundreds of athletes, coaches and volunteers lined each side of Boone Pickens Stadium to start this year’s Special Olympics Summer Games with bocce ball under the sun.
Ethen Bassnett was one of them, rolling the heavy orbs across the field. The key is throwing softly, he said. The 13-year-old athlete is one of 20 on Stillwater’s middle school team. It is comprised of 10 special needs athletes and 10 general education peer partners.
Special Education Teacher Mandi Robison works at Stillwater Middle School. She said everyone who comes out to the Games has a great time competing together.
Bassnett said his favorite part of the Special Olympics is bocce ball because he gets to compete with others. He said he will hang his medal up in his room when he gets it.
His mother, Amy Long, said her son has been coming to the Special Olympics for five years and looks forward to it each time.
“It’s where Ethen can shine,” she said. “It’s a place for him to be himself.”
Long said fitting in and feeling normal is often difficult for special needs children. The Special Olympics gives them that, she said. She said as the games get closer, her son starts to bug her about going and keeps a collection of each T-shirt he gets.
He only competes in bocce but Long is hoping she can encourage him to get into other events as well.
The Special Olympics Summer Games, with a record-setting 4,624 athletes participating, kicked off Wednesday with events beginning at 8 a.m. The opening ceremonies welcomed athletes and volunteers in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Events run through Friday at a variety of venues on the Oklahoma State University campus and Stillwater.