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Efforts Underway to Bring Special Olympics the County

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Photographs of Project Unify Club at Chase High School provided by Robin Parsons

"In order for Rutherford County Special Olympics to get off the ground, several things need to happen." says Robin Parsons, Co-Coordinator for Rutherford County Special Olympics. "We need people who will volunteer as coaches and we need athletes."

Robin Parsons has been involved with North Carolina Special Olympics since 2012. "I coached basketball, volleyball and soccer in Burke County for four years before I transferred to Rutherford County in 2016. When I inquired about Special Olympics in Rutherford County, I was told that there was not an active program and there had not been a program for several years. I then inquired about who the local coordinator was at that time, and was told that they had someone that already applied for that volunteer position. Angela McKinney was the person that applied and was named coordinator of Rutherford County Special Olympics. I contacted her and we soon became co-coordinators. We have held sign-up events at Sweet Frogs and Zaxby's with very limited results. It is my understanding that others in the county had tried to get the program going again, but it never got off the ground. It is the belief of both Angela and myself that people are a little leery of getting involved or excited about something that did not come to fruition in the past. It is my belief that if we can take one team to Raleigh, people in the community will realize that we are serious about starting a program in our county and we will then get a positive response." continued Robin. "With the help of Judy Mott, we are going to hold meetings in January and February in the three districts of Rutherford County (RS Central, East and Chase) in the hopes that if we can establish interest in each district where transportation would not be an issue, we may get some interest. There are many students and adults in our community with special needs that could really benefit from having a Special Olympics Program. It is my hope that we are able to take at least one team of athletes to summer games in Raleigh in June, 2018."

There are so many different programs within North Carolina Special Olympics that all members of the community can be involved. Special Olympics offers 19 different sports that athletes can participate in. There are individual and team sports, modified sports, unified sports, traditional sports (which follows North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules), and individual sports for those with more physical restrictions. Special Olympics is open to individuals ages 8-108 with intellectual disabilities.

"The best way to start to get involved with North Carolina Special Olympics is to begin a Project Unify/Unified Champions club at your local public school." concluded Parsons. "Unified Champions is also a part of North Carolina Special Olympics. It is a club that pairs traditional students with students with special needs and promotes inclusion throughout the entire school. I currently sponsor the Project Unify Club at Chase High School. We also have a Facebook page under the name Chase High School Project Unify. You can begin to build a team of athletes though this club using BOTH traditional students and students with special needs. You can form a team of any sport and play what is called unified sports, which is a team that includes both traditional and special needs students playing together on the same team."

If you would like to get involved in bringing Special Olympics back to Rutherford County, please contact Robin Parsons at 828-395-3662 or by email her at rparsons@rcsnc.org.

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