More than 150 special education students from across Escambia County made sure last week that Super Fun Day lived up to its name. The day of fun and friendly competition, formerly known as Special Olympics, was held March 23 at Flomaton High School’s gymnasium.
Students from 13 local schools, along with one home-schooled child, participated in the games, which ranged from wheelchair and wheelbarrow races to foot races and bouncy ball races; from bowling and Frisbee tossing for distance and accuracy, to ball throwing, Rice-find and Toss ’em.
Each time an event was held, the youngsters joined their chaperones, family members and friends in creating a noise level that some said matched or exceeded that of the crowd at a Hurricanes basketball game.
One person who was enjoying the competition and helping cheer the youngsters on was Suzanne Barnett, Special Services Coordinator for the Escambia County School System.
“This day is all about the special student-athletes,” Barnett smiled. “The students look forward to this day all year.”
The student-athletes got an idea of just how special a day it would be when the first school bus that shuttled them to the gym began unloading. The young athletes were escorted through “honor lines” of FHS students in grades 7-12 who clapped and cheered as the competitors made their way to the facility.
The games began after brief opening ceremonies, which included the special “Senior Walk,” a parade of the student-athletes who are making their final appearance in the competition.
This year’s group consisted of just two individuals, both from Escambia County High School. Wiley Tait and Brandy Emmons took a lap around the gymnasium, waving and smiling as the crowd of more than 500 stood and honored them.
A total of 80 students from the four schools in the Atmore News coverage area — ECHS (9), Escambia County Middle (23), Rachel Patterson Elementary (26) and Huxford Elementary (22) — competed in the annual day of contests and challenges, hosted for the first time in Flomaton.
In all, there were 159 youngsters who took part in the games. Along with the previously mentioned schools and the one home-schooled student, the following schools also competed in the Super Fun Day: Brewton Elementary, Brewton Middle, Flomaton Elementary, Flomaton High, Neal Elementary, Neal Middle, Neal High, Pollard McCall Junior High, and T.R. Miller High.
Barnett admitted that putting the event together was a time-consuming endeavor, although she said she considers it a labor of love. She said such a task would have been even more daunting had it not been for the volunteers who pitched in.
“Each athlete is paired with a buddy, and the buddy greets the athlete upon arrival and stays with (him or her) until the end of the day,” she said. “We had volunteers from Alabama Power, and we had Coastal Alabama Community College West’s softball team and nursing students. We also had students from Escambia Middle, Flomaton High, W.S. Neal High and T.R. Miller.”
Barnett pointed out that each of the volunteers shared the same mindset.
“Everybody knows that it’s all about them,” she said, nodding her head in the direction of the athletes scattered throughout the gym.
The following local students participated in Super Fun Day:
Escambia Co. High
Anita Shoemaker, Brandy Emmons, Edward Powell, Michael Tucker, Nelson Leslie, Tatianna Johnson, Tymetrius Rankins, Wiley Tait, Zayshia Mason.
Escambia Co. Middle
Caden Wilson, Christopher DeFee, Devine Carter, Heaven Dixon, Jahmesha Russell, Jakiyah Norman, Jayla Boutwell, Jaylen Webb, Jaylin Phillips, Jermel Lewis, Kadarius Curry, Keyuntea Lockett, Lindasha Williams, Malayzia Crenshaw, Mylasia Flowers, Miracle Williams, Quentin Hands, Sara Simmons, Scottez Johnson, Shawn Countryman, Tiffany Hall, Tysedric Woods, Zykeria Frye.
Rachel Patterson Elementary
Aurora Creel, Akeylias Sanders, Alexander Etheridge, Ava Wilson-Walker, Brysten Dixon, Carrie Bell Walker, Destiny Riley, Hildi Raines, Immogene Godwin, Isaiah Johnson, Jamyia Craft, Jimmy Craft, Kaiden Abare-Young, Kamarion Brown, Landon Barnett, Leland Benjamin, Makia Baldwin, Michael Gamble, Ny’Asia Seright, Presley Swearingen, Romulus Thompson, Serenity Arnold, Tyjustice Wiggins, Tykeria Wiggins, Zameriona Rivers, Zephaniah Crenshaw.
Aalyiah Hadley, Alana Caraway, Allissa Hadley, Anthony Jordan, Bailyn Weaver, Brianna Emmons, Caden Luker, Colton Morris, Devon Lambert, Elijah Snider, Hunter Caraway, Jack Canova, Jackson Odom, Jaxson Branch, Joshua White, Tashon Johnson, Preston Lambert, Lance Presley, Kenleigh Madison, Keenan McGhee, Kaitlyn Snider, Kaiden McDuffie.