Athletes get ready to shine
By Traci Chapman
It’s the biggest fundraiser and event of the year, but Special Olympics is much more than that to the athletes who participate in it.
Cherie Miller should know. An active member of Mustang Boomer Booster Club for nine years, Miller is the teacher representative for athletes for Mustang High School, dorm room sponsor at the games and coach. While Miller clearly gives a lot to her athletes, she said she gets much more than she receives.
“These athletes’ hard work and determination are clearly seen through the smiles on their faces,” Miller said. “For me, it’s worth every minute.”
Mustang has 43 athletes traveling to Stillwater Wednesday for this year’s Special Olympics games. Each of them bring with them enthusiasm and dedication everyone around them can see, Miller said. Boomer Boosters are the force behind the athletes, making it possible for the athletes to travel to the games, she said.
“This is a local organization which operates as a source to help handicapped athletes and parents raise money to participate in special Olympic activities,” Miller said. “The fundraisers we help conduct not only assist in covering the costs of the Special Olympics experience but are also designed so that the athletes are provided an opportunity for social interaction through parties, dances, etc.
Athletes compete in track and field, bowling, bocce, basketball, equestrian and other events. While the physical benefits of training and exercise are clear, Miller said the opportunities extend beyond – helping to increase athletes’ self-confidence and positive self-image.
“I feel one of the best things it brings is an opportunity for increased community understanding, acceptance and respect of individuals with disabilities,” Miller said.
Mustang High School was the site of a special pep rally Monday night, and students and teachers gathered at the school’s commons Wednesday for a special send-off. Thursday is the busiest day for athletes, with most of the competitive events held that day, as well as a Thursday evening dance.
Athletes will be housed at Oklahoma State University, with events taking place at Stillwater High School due to construction going on at OSU, Miller said.
“It’s a great opportunity for them and it’s a wonderful experience for us – it’s just something you never forget,” Miller said.