SOFF bridges family, community together, makes atheletes feel important


Analicia Haynes

Colleen Moran, a Special Olympics athlete, dances and sings along to Kenny Chesney’s “When the Sun Goes Down,” Saturday during the Special Olympics Family Festival. Moran said she had so much fun getting in front of everyone.

Analicia Haynes, Managing Editor

After hearing her name called over the microphone, Colleen Moran, a Special Olympics athlete, marched up to the front of the karaoke tent, grabbed the microphone and sang along to Kenny Chesney’s “When the Sun Goes Down.”

Moran danced, smiled and laughed as audience members cheered her on and sang along to the familiar song.

After singing and finally getting her face painted, Moran said she had so much fun getting in front of everyone.

Courtney Probst, a volunteer and friend of Moran, said despite the restrictions athletes face, the Special Olympics Family Festival athletes and volunteers alike, the chance to just be themselves without feeling judged.

Volunteers helped wherever they could while building the bridge between family and community during the Special Olympics Family Festival.

With a theme revolving around Harry Potter, athletes and volunteers walked from tent to tent playing various carnival games and activities such as karaoke, shooting a basketball and trying their pitch at dunking a person in a tank of water.

Probst, who is also a student from Stewardson-Strasburg High School, said while it was her first time volunteering, she loved seeing the happiness everyone had throughout the day.

“The smiles on (the athletes) faces makes my heart warm,” she said.

Melinda Cole, a sophomore elementary education major, sat with athlete Sara Shively as they watched several people sing their favorite songs in the karaoke tent.

Holding a balloon animal in one hand and making a thumbs up with the other, Shively said she was having fun watching her friends perform.

Cole said the festival was important for the community because it was a way to make people feel equally treated.

“(It is a way) for everyone to get a chance to have a friend, feel important and enjoy themselves,” Cole said.

Analicia Haynes
Brittany Ramey, a Special Olympics athlete, gets ready to shoot a basketball on Saturday during the Special Olympics Family Festival. Ramey said she loves the festival becuase she gets to meet new friends.

After trying her luck and making several baskets at the basketball hoop, Brittany Ramey, an athlete, and her friends, volunteers Amanda Apple and Bailey Grimes, said the festival was a way to meet new friends and bring the community together.

“I look forward to it every year,” Apple said. “I love doing it and meeting new friends.”

Bethany Ray, a volunteer from Windsor, said the event also brings the community and family together and it is a great opportunity to just be happy.

Ray, who was formerly from Mattoon, said showing her support is a true love and helping people is always something she wanted to do.

As for people who want to volunteer, Ray said it is not a hard step to take.

“Just do it. It’s so worth it,” she said.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]