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Special Olympics: Competing is more important than winning the gold medals

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

— Special Olympics Oath

The Special Olympics track team, called the Roadrunners, are traveling to Reno today for the Special Olympics Summer Games.

This is an annual event for Pahrump Special Olympics and is the highlight of the year. Pahrump will send 20 athletes to the games.

The team will be leaving from the Nugget at 7 a.m. and the games start on June 5 and end on June 6. Each year Pahrump Special Olympics tries to raise the $5,000 that it costs to send these athletes to Reno. This was the first year that Pahrump raised the money.

The summer games are patterned after the Olympic Games and Special Olympians from around the state come to Reno to compete. The games are held at MacKay Stadium on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Over 400 athletes from around the state will compete in track and field events and aquatics. It is the largest Special Olympics competition in the state.

The games start off with the opening ceremony. Jim Soltz, area director of Pahrump, said it is truly an amazing ceremony. He says the athletes march around the stadium just like the real Olympics and it is just awe-inspiring for the athletes.

“Watching the athletes as they participate in the opening ceremony is really something,” he said. “At Reno, they even light a torch similar to the one used in the Olympic Summer Games. The athletes are just in awe of all the people cheering them on. I truly enjoy watching them enjoy that experience.”

And this is where the similarities stop. Special Olympics gold is so much more than winning. Special Olympics gold is not the competition, but everything else surrounding the competition. It’s the gathering for the competition, the people, the volunteers, the community and a whole lot more.

Soltz will be watching his daughter, Samantha go through this experience as a parent and a coach.

This will be Soltz’s second year as head of the Pahrump Special Olympics, but he has years of experience volunteering as a coach.

According to Don Briskey, a Special Olympics coach, Soltz will be honored at an awards dinner and he will be awarded the Special Olympics Volunteer of the Year Award.

“Soltz gives everything he has to this program and we are lucky to have him,” Briskey said.

Briskey’s daughter, Erin, loves Special Olympics and has been participating in the sports for three or four years. She is now 26 years old. According to her father, she is mentally delayed.

Briskey volunteers and coaches bowling, bocce, golf and track during the year, which starts in January. Special Olympics takes a break during the summer after Reno and resumes in the fall.

Erin Briskey will be competing in the 25-meter walk, and the 50-meter dash and the softball throw. Her favorite sport during the year is bowling.

Her father said prior to participating in Special Olympics there wasn’t much for Erin to do in Pahrump. He said his daughter was shy and withdrawn.

Since participating, she now is more active, healthier and she has outgrown her shyness.

“She would walk up to people while fundraising this year and just start talking and that is something she would never had done before Special Olympics,” Don Briskey said.

He said she looks forward to going to Special Olympics and now likes to try new things.

“For all special needs kids, Special Olympics is a good way to keep them socially and physically active,” he said.

He said the social aspect of Special Olympics is huge. Although every year they compete in the summer games, the athletes make life-long friends. The athletes they compete with become their friends. Briskey said his daughter meets up every year with a friend she made from Fernley.

Soltz agrees, “This is one of the neat things about the summer games,”Soltz said. “It brings together all these athletes and they meet and make new friends and each year they get to meet up with old friends.”

Lesa Wald’s daughter, Kellye Dorrough, is 19 and has been involved in Special Olympics for four years. Her daughter was born with Down Syndrome. Wald also agrees with Briskey and said the most important thing for her daughter has been the friends she has met.

“Special Olympics has introduced her to other children who are like her in many ways,” Wald said. “It has given her an outlet for exercise and meeting new friends, which is huge.”

Wald said the trip also helps her daughter become more independent because her daughter will be staying with other athletes in a dorm and will not be staying with her.

“This gives my daughter a chance to be Kellye,” she said. “It also teaches her life skills.”

Kellye will be doing three events up in Reno, the softball throw, the 25-meter walk and the 50 meter.

“My daughter enjoys the softball throw because her older brother works with her throwing two or three days a week,” she said.

Special Olympics has involved the entire family and it’s exciting to see her daughter excel.

“And I just don’t watch my daughter, for this year I am a coach,” she said. “They all work so hard because they put so much work into it. I enjoy working with the kids and I enjoying watching them achieve things and it has made me a happier person all around.”

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