Special Olympics Kentucky celebrates 25-years at EKU

Special Olympics Kentucky

RICHMOND, Ky. (WTVQ) – Special Olympics Kentucky will celebrate 25 years of the State Summer Games at Eastern Kentucky University when the program returns to the Richmond campus May31-June 2.

The Summer Games are Special Olympics Kentucky’s largest event of the year with nearly 1,400 athletes competing in five sports, and hundreds of coaches and volunteers also taking part.

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This is the seventh consecutive year that Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have served as the Platinum Sponsor for the Games. Touchstone Energy is the largest single supporter of the State Summer Games.

Summer Games activities get underway early on May 31 in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort with the opening of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg at 9 am. The Opening Ceremonies will include appearances by several law enforcement dignitaries. The Final Leg group will then head to the Capitol steps for the lighting of the Special Olympics Torch, followed by a run from the Capitol to Frankfort Police headquarters. Final Leg participants will then carry the torch to Richmond for the Summer Games Opening Ceremonies.

Other stops along the Final Leg, include the annual celebration at Stewart Home and School in Frankfort at 10:30 am, a run to Georgetown City Hall at 1:50 pm, a run from the Transylvania University Campus to the Wildcat statue at the University of Kentucky in Lexington beginning at 2:15 pm and a stop at the Richmond Police Department at 4:15, followed by a run into the Ravine on the Eastern Kentucky University campus.

Opening Ceremonies for the Games will begin at 6:45 pm on May 31 in The Ravine near the center of the EKU campus (weather permitting). The Ceremonies will include the parade of athletes and the lighting of the Special Olympics cauldron. The cauldron will be lit by 2018 Special Olympics Kentucky Athlete of the Year Jennifer Hamilton of Owensboro and the Games will be declared open by 2018 Coach of the Year Leigh Toby. In the event of bad weather, the Opening Ceremonies will be held in Alumni Coliseum.

Competition will begin Friday night immediately following the Opening Ceremonies. Tom Samuels Track will host the distance races and relays beginning at approximately 8:15 pm on June 1. There will also be several heats of the shot put competition held on Friday night. The Don Combs Natatorium will also see swimming action on Friday night, beginning at 8:15 with the short course relay events.

The main action gets underway early in the morning on Saturday, June 1, with the opening of all remaining competitive events. Athletes will be competing in track and field, swimming, bocce, soccer and rhythmic gymnastics.

The public is encouraged to attend the Opening Ceremonies and all competitions. All are open to the public and there is no admission charge. Most competitions on Saturday will be underway by 9:00 am.

Saturday’s activities will also include the popular Chick-fil-A Olympic Town area, which includes several interactive activities for athletes and their families. Chick-fil-A Olympic Town is also the location of the annual Healthy Athletes Athlete Wellness Village.

This year’s Healthy Athletes program features a Special Smiles location where athletes can receive dental screenings; an Opening Eyes vision screening venue; a Fit Feet location where athletes can receive podiatric evaluations; FUN Fitness, which gives physical therapy evaluations; Health Promotions, which offers advice on diet and other healthy lifestyles; and the latest addition Strong Minds, which promotes the building of active coping skills.

All services provided in the Healthy Athlete Village are free to the athletes and provided by volunteers. The Touchstone Energy hot air balloon will also be on display in Olympic Town with tethered rides available if weather allows.

Photos from all competitions and other Summer Games activities will be available on line throughout the day at http://flickr.com/photos/sokentucky/albums. Photos will be downloadable and can be used for publication.

Saturday’s activities conclude with the official Closing Ceremonies, which begin at 7:30 pm in the Alumni Coliseum parking lot. Closing ceremonies include the presentation of the pentathlon medals, fireworks and an athlete victory dance.

Volunteers are still needed for several venues at the Games. For volunteer opportunities, contact Kelli Firquin at 800-633-7403 or kfirquin@soky.org.

The 2019 Special Olympics Kentucky State Summer Games are made possible through the generosity of platinum sponsor Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, Special Olympics Kentucky year-round partners Texas Roadhouse and Toyota Motor Corporation; Gold Sponsors AECOM, Chick-fil-A and Walmart; Silver Sponsors Coca-Cola, Eastern Kentucky University, Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Kentucky, Lockheed Martin, Richmond Tourism and Southland Dairy Farmers and Waste Connections; Bronze Sponsors EKU Catering, Dever Golf Carts, Golden Corral, Greentree Forest Products, LBX Company, Penske Truck Rental and Peoples Bank of Madison County; and Supporting Sponsors the City of Richmond and Positively Java.

This will be the fifth year that Chick-fil-A Greater Lexington stores are teaming up to provide all lunches for athletes, coaches and volunteers on Saturday, June 1.

Special Olympics is the world’s largest program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Participation in competitive events is open to all individuals eight years of age or older. Training and competition in local, area, state, and national programs is offered year-round in Kentucky in 15 sports.

In addition to its traditional sports competitions, Special Olympics also offers early childhood programming through the Young Athletes Program and medical screenings though the Healthy Athletes Initiative. Special Olympics Kentucky began as a one-day event in Louisville in 1970 and has expanded to serve more than 10,000 athletes statewide annually. Special Olympics celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the global movement in 2018.