Special Olympics Summer Games offer lessons to athletes and volunteers

For the last 50 years Special Olympics Kansas has put on their Summer Olympic Games.

"It started off as four teams maybe thirty athletes in Winfield, Kansas and now we're up to twelve hundred and fifty athletes, four sports and sixty three teams," said Tim Rehder. 

These athletes travel from all across Kansas for the largest gathering of Special Olympics athletes in the Sunflower State.

"They're out here just like when we had the state track meet at WSU," said Wichita Independents Head Coach, Kimberly Mudd. This is their state track meet. I mean they're just as important  as the regular high school guys a couple weeks ago so this is their hoo-rah."

Events range from swimming, tennis, cycling to track and field.

"It was fun," said participant, William Wu. "I had a great time with everybody. They are friendly and kind."

During the games competitors are greeted with high fives, hugs, words of encouragement, and some receive awards.

"It's so amazing when you get a medal because you know all the training you did paid off," said athlete Grant Rader.

While sports can sometimes be branded as winning or losing, this weekend was more about helping the participants reach their full potential.

"If their best is they finish 6th place but set a personal record, it's very satisfying for everyone," said Rehder. "Usually they'll even let us know I took 6th place and sometimes they might be a little down about that but then they'll say that's the fastest time I ever ran. You can't do any better than that."

The role of a coach is to teach their athletes lessons on and off the field of competition. In this relationship, it's a two way street.

"We all have our bad days but take a look at one of the kids man it'll make you smile so that would be the biggest thing is their overall attitude with each other and how they bond," said Jason Rader, a Special Olympics volunteer. 

Special Olympics doesn't just help make lasting memories, but it also serves as a great unifier

"Just brings everybody closer together and understands that everybody is the same. We're all individuals we all have our different limits but we still can compete at different levels," Rader added.