BILLINGS- The Yellowstone Valley Area Special Olympics kicked off Friday at Daylis Stadium in Billings.
“Today we start with opening ceremonies, this is the Track & Field portion of the event. We also highlight soccer skills today,” Special Olympics coach Rhona Webb said.
Athletes have all been training for at least two months to prepare.
Events range from Bocce Ball to power-lifting.
Whatever they compete in, all athletes seem to have one goal in common,
“Just to do my best, and see my friends,” athlete Keith King said.
The event kicked off with the athlete oath, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
“Its very rare that these athletes get to shine, most of the time it’s not their day, it’s a day filled with challenges that we don’t understand, we don’t know about, and we can’t relate, but today is all about them, and we are so blessed that so many people come out,”
“150 volunteers alone today, but cheerleaders in the stand just to make them feel awesome,” Webb said.
Kellan is a second grader at St. Francis. It’s his first year competing.
He’s the first student with Down Syndrome to go to school there, and his classmates love him.
So much, in fact, that they pulled out all the stops to support him.
“Kellan’s the first child at Saint Francis with Down Syndrome, and they’ve just embraced him and we’ve all become part of this big family,” Schye said. “He has this smile that’s just contagious, and he will hug people, I think a lot of the times it’s someone who really needed that hug.
They also sent Kellan off from school this morning by lining the halls and wishing him well with high fives and signs.
“We arranged to have the entire second-grade class come, so it’s about 60 students,” Schye said.
They came in wearing shirts saying Kellan, designed and sold by students to raise money for the Special Olympics.
“It’s just been amazing, obviously this is where we were meant to be and just the feeling of belonging can’t be replaced,” Schye said.
The event will continue through the weekend.
Watch the video above to catch highlights of the opening ceremony.
Reporting by Jenny Fick for MTN News