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The 2014 Opening Ceremonies for the Mecklenburg County Special Olympics were this morning. Our efforts to increase attendance worked. Last year, about 15-20 family members attended. This year, over 400 family, friends and community members cheered loudly for each and every athlete who marched into the Coliseum. 

There were many special moments while we were there. When Ben walked in (he was in his walker!!!) his personal cheering squads yelled extra loud. I was a few feet away from him, and I struggled with letting him see me or not. Often if he sees his family in a crowd, he wonders why he is not with us. But the decision was made for me, the crowd was so wild and loud, he could not hear me anyway. Just as he walked past me, I noticed him look up at the audience, then give a double take at all the people cheering. My tears came then and even now when I write this.

While we were waiting for the ceremonies to begin, a woman introduced herself to me. She lives in Charlotte, saw the news about this event and came. She wanted to meet me and thank me. Her grandson is autistic and lives in Texas. We hugged. A connection made.

For some, being a part of this event was a life changing experience. We think that as a member of the audience, we are giving our time and efforts to the athletes, but in reality, we, as meager spectators walk away with a lot more. Sometimes too much to comprehend. We have to let it sit until we can process the emotions.

WBTV and WBT radio have already asked to be a part of the efforts next year to increase the audience. If the Special Olympics committee is open to it, I am a willing volunteer. But I have a feeling it will be easy to get people next year to come, once you have experienced the ceremonies, you will tell everyone about it and make it a tradition to attend. It is that good.


  1. My 10 year old son, Sam, and I attended the ceremony today after seeing your story on the news a few days ago. As soon as the story ended, he looked at me and asked if I would take him. Since we live in Gaston County, it is our spring break. I knew it was something we had to do! I felt truly blessed to be a part of today's events. I have been working with special needs children for almost 9 years now, and I realize just how special this kids truly are! Sam had an amazing time and is also proud of all of the athletes! Thank you for getting the words out! We hope to be there next year! Good luck Ben!!!!!

    1. It would be hard to make this day any better, but your note has done just that. Thank you Donna and Sam. May I share your comment on Facebook? I will not use your names. I look forward to meeting you both next year - and introducing you to Ben.

    2. I was debating on texting my sons teacher to find out what time and if the parents could go to the Opening Ceremony when I saw Astrid Martinez on WBTV yesterday morning. I ran into one of the cameramen for WBTV and thanked them for doing that news report in the morning. In all the years that my son has been going to these events I have never received any information giving the time, place of the events and saying on & join us. A few weeks in advance notice would be awesome, because many family members have to make arrangements to be there. I had a blast watching my son dance to "We Are Family."

    3. Feel free to repost anything I posted. Sam read your reply and we are both excited about meeting you AND Ben next year!


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