Hattiesburg Special Olympics hosted its annual Spring Local Games on Saturday, Feb. 18.
The Games were played at the Payne Center on campus and consisted of basketball contests.
According to specialolympicsms. org, the Special Olympics were established in August 1975.The Hub City region hosts Spring, Fall, Winter and Summer games in accordance with the State Games. The local games are required to have their games about a month before the state games. The athletes and coaches meet about once a week for six weeks leading up to the local games.
Assistant Director for the Hattiesburg region of the Special Olympics Mississippi Allison Hinz has been volunteering for them for just over a year.
Hinz said a lot of the athletes are her students, which gives her the opportunity to get to know them on a more personal level. Hinz said the best part of her job is seeing the joy of the athletes when they accomplish something they otherwise thought they could not. She said she thinks it is a unique way to bring the community together.
“It is probably [the athletes’] favorite thing,” Hinz said. “Many of them do not have extracurricular activities that they are involved in and so they pretty much look forward to every practice and every game. It builds their self-confidence, increases their social skills and helps them to make friends.”
After the Spring Games, track and field is on deck. Hinz said that those include relay races, 200-meter dash and shot put.
Maria Lejeune, an athlete in the games, was born in Ukraine but moved to America when she was two after being adopted. Lejeune said she looks forward to the local games all the time and would never miss a games.
“My favorite thing about the games is that I get an opportunity to do a sport,” Lejeune said. “Summer is my favorite games because I get to do track and field and swim.”
Monday, Feb. 20, Southern Miss students will play with Special Olympic athletes together. It is an inclusive activity for people with and without disabilities. The program was started by USM Rec Sports with football and basketball.
These games will take place at the intramural fields at 5.30p.m. every Monday. If you are interested in playing and signing up, contact USM Rec Sports. Students interested in olunteering for Special Olympics Mississippi in the Hub City Region, its next event is the Keesler State Games on May 19 at Keesler AFB in Biloxi. For more information, check its Facebook page at facebook.com/ HubCitySpecialOlympics.