Garnering support for sports is not a difficult task in Blount County, and Special Olympics is no exception.
For almost 25 years, Blount County has been the place for a successful and inspiring Special Olympics program.
Assistant Director Cookie Crowson has been with Parks & Rec since the beginning of Blount County’s Special Olympics program. She said the secret to the on-going event’s success is the support of the schools, the athletes’ families and the huge network of volunteers.
“We can plan our programs but if we didn’t have volunteers to implement them, it just wouldn’t happen.”
Crowson said in the history of the Blount County Special Olympics, Parks & Rec has never struggled to recruit volunteers.
“You would not believe the number of people who take a vacation day to volunteer.” She said most volunteers are professionals, public school coaches and teachers as well as students.
Several schools in the Alcoa, Blount and Maryville School Systems participate in the events. In fact, athletes who are enrolled in school are trained for their sport by teachers and coaches.
She said one of the most rewarding aspects of the program is watching the families of athletes. “For the parents, it is often the first time they’ve seen their child accomplish something at an athletic event.”
Crowson said Special Olympics is open to Blount County citizens ages 8 years old and up. She said their oldest competitor is 65 years old.
Crowson said several adult centers participate but any adult is welcome to compete as an independent athlete.
Crowson said there are adults who have been competing since the beginning. “They started when they were about 8 years old, and now they’re in their 30s.”
In 2011, Blount County Special Olympics will celebrate their 25th anniversary.
“The highlight for all of our events is the sense of accomplishment that we have made a difference in the lives of people competing.”