Athletes representing the Buncombe County Special Olympics Bulldogs ended the 2018 season with a third place finish in their division at the Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament in Charlotte. Two individual skills athletes also competed with David Lunsford taking first place and Sean Griffin placing fourth in their respective divisions during the games held November 9-11.
An opening ceremony at Bojangles’ Coliseum included the Law Enforcement Torch Run, lighting of a cauldron, and a parade of athletes, similar to the modern Olympic Games. With more than 1,000 athletes from across the state, it was the second largest state-level competition of the year. Sports included six disciplines: basketball, bocce, golf, roller skating, soccer, and tennis.
“The Fall Tournament was a great platform for our athletes to show off how hard they have worked this season,” said Karla Furnari of Buncombe County Recreation Services, who is also a Buncombe County Special Olympics coach and Local Coordinator. “The Special Olympics athlete’s oath is, ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ Our primary goal is to build confidence, have fun, and share the experience and friendship with families, supporters, and volunteers. In addition to the competitions, ceremonies, and awards, there was also a dance held on Saturday night that the athletes loved.”
Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968 and celebrates 50 years of changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities in 2018. Buncombe County Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for youth and adults. Sports include alpine skiing and snowboarding, aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, gymnastics, powerlifting, and soccer. The organization also recently began offering the Adaptive Athlete Program in a partnership with South Slope CrossFit and Buncombe County Recreation Services.
Buncombe County Special Olympics is made possible through funding from donors and support from Buncombe County Government. Festival of Lights, held December 1-23 at Lake Julian Park, is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year. To donate or volunteer, visit buncombecountyspecialolympics.org.