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Special Olympics celebrates area volunteers
Coaches, sponsors among honorees
Andres Suarez, left, hugs Jackie Devia on Friday during the Special Olympics Awards night. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Special Olympians from Forsyth County recently had a chance to show their appreciation to supporters.

During the first “Sweets and Thanks” reception at Central Park’s Recreation Center, dozens of the special needs athletes and their families gathered to thank team coaches, sponsors and volunteers who help with events throughout the year.

“We have the best parents, coaches, volunteers and athletes around,” said Susan Darlington, local coordinator of Special Olympics Forsyth.

Among those recognized Friday night were members of the organization’s fundraising committee.

Linda Fitzpatrick, one of the program’s volunteers, said close to $30,000 was raised last year between two major events: Battle of the Bats, an invitational softball tournament; and a 5K run.

“Battle of the Bats has been tremendous,” Darlington said in regards to the fundraiser, which this year marks its fourth anniversary. “It’s a beautiful thing to see the Special Olympics Forsyth community adopt it.”

Gratitude also went to volunteers who helped with last year’s Spring Games, in which special education students from all Forsyth schools are invited to participate.

Darlington said some 100 adult volunteers helped with the event, which this year will be held on April 20 at Forsyth Central High School, as well as some 400 “buddies.”

These are regular education students who are paired with Special Olympics athletes during the games.

They provide encouragement to their athletes and help with logistics of the event. 

Coaches who lead various sporting teams throughout the year were also recognized.

Darlington said some 35 coaches help with sports that range from softball and basketball to bowling and table tennis.

Among other activities are hockey, swimming, volleyball, golf and bocce ball.

A group of students who call themselves the “So Perfect Athletes” brought the night to a close.

They shared with the audience why Special Olympics is important, and then performed two song-and-dance routines.

“Most of these kids wouldn’t have had the confidence to do anything like [perform on stage] before Special Olympics,” Fitzpatrick said. “That they can do it now is thanks to all the love and support from all of you.”