Special Olympians get large sendoff to state

Harvey County Special Olympians Summer Hamilton, left in front, and Abby Freuchting, right in front, Nicole Anderson, back left, and Cathy Sebree wave at people standing in front of Chisholm Middle School along First Street on Thursday afternoon, as they made their way to state in Hays. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

While driving a blue van filled with Special Olympics athletes on Thursday afternoon, one of the coaches, Karla Stauffer had goosebumps on her arms.

It wasn’t from being cold, as the outside temperature hovered around a moderate 70 degrees. It was from the huge turnout of people lining the sidewalks of Newton, easily numbering several hundred.

Some held signs, and lots of folks, most of whom were students at Newton High School, Santa Fe 5/6 Center, Newton Creation Preschool and Chisholm Middle School, cheered while athletes waved and smiled. They also left town with a police escort, starting at the high school, going south on Main Street, then east on First to the interstate, taking the roundabout to Hays.

Children with New Creation Preschool and others wave to athletes on Thursday afternoon across the street from McKinley. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

“Look at these goosebumps,” Stauffer said. “I’m so excited.”

Stauffer said this is the first time the team has had such a big sendoff to state.

Athletes in the blue van were Nicole Anderson, Summer Hamilton, Abby Fruechting and Cathy Sebree, who waved as they passed the cheering crowds.

Anderson said she’s been going to state a long time during the years.

“I can’t imagine you not going,” Stauffer said. “What are you doing at state?” she asked Anderson, to which Anderson replied she wasn’t sure.

“Sometimes, we go to the dance,” Stauffer told her, adding they also take part in opening ceremonies, go out to eat and stay in a motel room.

“Opening ceremonies are chaotic,” Anderson said, to which Stauffer laughed.

These are a number of folks on Main Street who came out to cheer on Special Olympics. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

Stauffer said ceremonies are at 10 a.m. Friday, March 16, and that’s when team names are announced. They’ll also recite the Athletes Oath, which goes, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

“We’ll be holding up our sign,” Stauffer said. “We’ll have a big sign that says Harvey County.”