An unseasonably cold drizzle couldn’t quench the flames of the North Carolina Special Olympics Torch as it passed through Rockingham Tuesday morning.
The county’s state Special Olympics team joined officers of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and Probation and Parole to complete the Richmond County leg of the Torch Run, while being escorted by a North Carolina Highway Patrolman, Rockingham Police Officer and FirstHealth Richmond Memorial EMS ambulance.
As the Special Olympics competitors explained, the challenge posed by the precipitation didn’t discourage them at all before their run.
“It means a lot to us - to be in an Olympics where you can compete with others and encourage each other,” Special Olympian Joy Frye, who excels at bocce ball among other competitions, said.
“It means a lot to me, because I like getting together and helping each other out,” Special Olympian Daniel Skipper explained, proclaiming he would run the whole way. “It’s going to be fun!”
Other members of the county’s North Carolina Special Olympics team who ran were Josh Daisy, Steve Pope, Elizabeth Horner and Dawn Grooms. Betty Dawkins was unable to participate.
While the thrill of victory is reserved for the competitors in the games, those who pitched in to support the team said they share in it.
RCSO Lt. John Edwards explained the Torch Run has become a tradition at the department, and would come off despite the weather.
“It’s very rewarding to the sheriff’s office to know that we support the Special Olympians from Richmond County that compete in Raleigh,” he said. “It’s an honor that we can carry the torch across the county. If it rains, we’ll just keep running.”
“This gives us an opportunity to give back to the community,” Probation Officer Danita McNeill commented. “We’re big supporters of the Special Olympics.”
Following the completion of the Torch Run, participants had lunch at the Rotary Lodge on Hinson Lake in Rockingham, where the participants explained the trek will help to prepare them for their competitions in early June.
Special Olympian Elizabeth Horner explained she almost ran the whole way.
“I rode just a little bit, right at the end,” she explained. “But I still did it, though!”
Special Olympian Dawn Grooms agreed.
“It’s getting us ready to go,” she said.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.