Special Olympics kicks off May 23

Special Olympics Arkansas’ 15,000 athletes across the state are no stranger to training and hard work. The organization hosts 240 competitions year-round in 20 different Olympic-type sports.
However, everyone will tell you there is no competition that compares to the largest event of the year, Summer Games. This event, held every May at Harding University in Searcy, hosts 2,000 athletes that have trained year-round and competed in their local area competitions to qualify for this statewide competition. Events include: golf individual skills; powerlifting, athletics (track and field), Bocce, softball, unified sports flag football, flag football and aquatics. 
“There are many heroes within Special Olympics Arkansas. Together we are a powerful movement. We would not be able to offer year-round opportunities for our athletes without our families, volunteers, law enforcement officers and community sponsors,” said Irvin Humphrey, director of sports training and competition. “Our athletes are the true heroes of our movement, showing us perseverance, love and respect at every turn. That is why we have chosen the 2016 Summer Games theme as ‘The Hero Within.’ ” 
In addition to the sports competitions, athletes will take time to focus on health through the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screenings offered onsite in the following disciplines: Opening Eyes, Healthy Hearing, Fun Fitness, Health Promotion, Fit Feet and Special Smiles. The Healthy Athletes initiative is dedicated to providing health services and education to Special Olympics athletes, and changing the way health systems interact with people with intellectual disabilities. Through free health screenings, training for healthcare professionals and evaluation of the health status of people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics Health has become the largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities worldwide.
The excitement for the event will really kick off on Monday, May 23, as law enforcement officers begin carrying the “Flame of Hope” from all four corners of the state. During this three-day journey, Centennial Bank will host Torch Arrival Celebrations at several of their community branches. These celebrations are meant to serve as a pep rally to bring awareness for Special Olympics Arkansas athletes and Summer Games.  
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, all Guardians of the Flame will converge on the State Capitol Law Enforcement Memorial to join their flames in a ceremonial lighting of the Final Leg Torch. On Thursday, May 26, law enforcement officers take off on the final leg, a 50-mile continuous run to Searcy. Officers will complete the final leg by running the Flame of Hope into Harding Stadium for the 2016 Summer Games Opening Ceremonies at 7:30 p.m. Thursday May 26. The official Torch Run convoy is made up of the Centennial Bank Mobile Banking Unit, Steve Landers Auto Group, Good Sam’s and members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Arkansas movement.