published Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Dalton hosting Special Olympics

GET INVOLVED

Events run from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday. For a complete schedule of events, visit specialolympicsga.org.

It only took one trip for Lisa Hughey and her family to get hooked on the Special Olympics.

She didn't know what to expect when she first took her autistic son to compete 10 years ago. But now the event has become a favorite family activity.

"When you leave, you just can't wait until the next one," she said. "That's pretty much what's happened with us."

Hughey is the volunteer coordinator for this weekend's State Fall Games taking place at venues across Dalton, Ga.

More than 2,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities are expected to participate in the statewide event, which has competitions in softball, bocce ball, running, golf and cycling.

Organizers say athletes have trained and practiced just as much as high school or collegiate athletes.

"It's competition," Hughey said. "It's not just everybody getting to win. It's awe-inspiring to see all these people aspiring to be the best they can be."

The event is boosted by the help of more than 1,000 volunteers.

More are always welcome, but even if people don't want to pitch in, there's always a need for spectators to cheer on athletes, said Wendy Bigham, spokeswoman for Special Olympics Georgia.

"They don't always have people cheering for them," she said. "And everybody should have somebody cheering for them."

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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