Local News

Special Olympics kicks off

Posted June 5, 2009 10:09 p.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2009 10:56 p.m. EDT

— Athletes from North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee will be competing this weekend in the Special Olympics of North Carolina Summer Games.

More than 1,2000 athletes will compete in athletics, aquatics, gymnastics, power-lifting, softball or volleyball. Events will be held in Raleigh and Cary.

Festivities kicked-off Friday night with the opening ceremonies at Dorton Arena. WRAL-TV’s Ken Smith hosted the event.

“When these athletes, especially for the first time, when they walk into this atmosphere in Dorton Arena and hear the music and just see all the fans cheering for them, I think their jaw drops,” said Megan O’Donnell, vice president of communications for Special Olympics N.C.

Bionca Russell has been a Special Olympics athlete for 10 years. On Friday she sang the national anthem.

“It’s like a dream come true for her,” Biaonca’s grandmother Deloris Johnson said. “She told us around Christmas that she wanted to have a concert, so this is her concert.”

Johnson said the Special Olympics helped Bionca find the courage to get on stage.

“It has given her so much confidence…so much self-confidence,” Johnson said. “She has just blossomed since she’s been doing the Special Olympics.”

Organizers say that’s the name of the game.

“She (Bionca) has always been a singer. But now, she’s singing in front of her peers at Special Olympics events,” O’Donnell said.