Kimberly Flippo, a North Augusta High sophomore, served as the buddy for classmate and special athlete Fred Davis at the Aiken County Special Olympics on Friday. But that’s nothing new for them.
“I’ve been working with Fred for three years, ever since we were in middle school at Paul Knox,” Flippo said. “He is amazing and always brightens my day. It’s great how Fred has developed over the years and how he has this great personality.”
Held at Midland Valley High School on Friday, the Special Olympics welcomed the participation of more than 900 special athletes, both children and adults, from Aiken, Edgefield and Saluda counties. Hundreds of volunteers served as buddies and in many other capacities.
Carmen Downs, an Aiken County School District special education coordinator, previously participated in the Olympic Games as a teacher and, later, as a school-based coordinator at Clearwater Elementary School.
Downs wasn’t assigned to attend the event, but had no intention of missing it.
“I’m seeing a lot of kids I taught, 20 or 30 years ago,” she said. “I’m seeing regular-ed students who were in elementary school and are now in high school serving as buddies. It’s just exciting and motivating, just a beautiful day to be here with the kids.”
The Special Olympics began as a single event in Chicago in the late 1960s. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of the late president, John F. Kennedy, helped fund it, and the Special Olympics now is held throughout the world.
The Games in Aiken started about 35 years ago and continues to grow, modeled after the traditional Olympics. Athletes, buddies, teachers and others participated in the Parade of Schools, cheered on by others in the stands in the football stadium. An enthusiastic contingent from Silver Bluff High School – including some energetic tumblers – marched into the stadium proudly. The school was recognized for having the most spirit.
Children ages 2 to 7 and older athletes participated in a variety of activities provided by the Aiken Woman’s Club and other groups, including high school volunteers. Bridgestone also coordinated sports programs for the smaller kids. Denise Hanson, a Bridgestone staffer, helped out for the second time.
“I had a really good time last year,” she said. “It’s fun to see the kids smile and how excited they get playing games.”
Aiken Sheriff’s Office deputy Bill Tucker said he enjoyed helping kids throughout the morning. Another deputy, Angela Craig, ran with adult special athlete Jessica Glass on a portion of the traditional Torch Run.
“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “It’s amazing what they can do.”
Tri-Development was joined by the three county school districts in support of the Special Olympics.