Athletes, volunteers enjoy special event

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Shane Givens threw the basketball toward the goal five times at Warren Road Community Center on Nov. 8.

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Shane Givens, 12, of Waynesboro, Ga., participates in one of the challenges during a basketball skills competition for special needs students at the Warren Community Center.   SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Shane Givens, 12, of Waynesboro, Ga., participates in one of the challenges during a basketball skills competition for special needs students at the Warren Community Center.

From the sidelines, the 12-year-old’s mother shouted encouragement.

“You can do it,” she said. “Take your time.”

He smiled at her and clapped his hands.

To the three volunteers guiding her son through the activity, Mary Givens said, “He really wants to make a basket.”

On the sixth shot, the ball sank through the hoop. Shane jumped up and down and high-fived Drew Ronemus, 17, Ben Lahatte, 16, and Ahmed Hill, 17, the three Aquinas High School students who volunteered at the Area 9 Basketball Skills Camp and encouraged him through the activity.

More than 150 athletes from Richmond, Columbia, Washington, Burke and McDuffie counties and from Lynndale Inc., participated in the Special Olympics event.

Participants competed in three events: spot shots, target toss and speed dribble. After each team of five competed in all events, they were given ribbons and recognized via loudspeaker for their performances.

They start training for the competition around the end of August or the first of September, said event coordinator Kristy Olive, who also teaches special education for the Richmond County school system.

“It teaches them team skills, how to be competitive, teamwork, dedication, sportsmanship for sure, but it gives them something to look forward to,” she said.

A similar Area 9 track and field event is held spring at Fort Gordon.

About 60 volunteers from area high schools and the Navy cheered on the athletes, cooked lunch for them and kept the event running smoothly.

Emily Parfenchuck and Abigail Van Alstine, both freshmen at Aquinas, volunteered at the event for the first time.

“Our dads are doctors. They see this every day. They inspired us to come out here,” Van Alstine said.

“I love it. I’m going to do it every year,” Parfenchuck said.

They both said they plan to help with the track and field event in the spring.

Sarah Weston, 16, volunteered at both events last year and said the basketball skills competition is her favorite of the two.

“You get to interact with the kids more one-on-one,” she said. “They’re really happy to be here. Even if they don’t win, they’re happy to compete.”

Dolton Hickenbottom, 13, said he was happy to be there. He loves basketball.

“I like to shoot,” he said.

He really only gets to play the sport at school because he doesn’t have anywhere to play it at home.

He showed little emotion as he went through the speed dribble and the target toss competitions. But he smiled and gave high-fives to the volunteers when he shot two baskets during the spot shots.

Hickenbottom said he participated in the skills competition last year and said he did well.

But there’s really only one thing he likes best about participating in this event.

“I like to play basketball,” he said.


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