Special Olympics come to Murphy Friday

    Murphy – After a lengthy period of planning, the Far West Special OIympics have finally arrived.
    The annual event will take place at the Murphy High School track on Friday. Festivities begin at 9:45 a.m.
    Local coordinator Susanne Parker has been overwhelmed with the response and success the event has already attained. The biggest payoff, however, will come when the athletes take the field.
    “I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls, from people wanting to volunteer, which is awesome,” Parker said. “I’ve been overwhelmed from the support of the three high schools, banks and the casino, all wanting to participate. They’re all excited about it. It’s truly a community event.”
    The day will be the culmination of a journey that started in August of 2017, when Cherokee County was awarded the Special Olympics for 2018 and 2019. Robbinsville played host to the Far West Special Olympics last year.
    A K-5 special education teacher at Peachtree Elementary School, Parker has always been passionate about her work with special needs students, even graduating with a dual degree in both elementary education and special needs education from Geneseo State College in New York.
    “I always wanted to be a teacher, but at the time I was in college, teachers were a dime a dozen,” Parker said. “However, special education was a new field, so I was encouraged by a few of my peers to check it out. I have a dual degree, but I’ve never done elementary education. Once I got into special needs, I found out what a joy and a love it is for me.”
    An estimated 300 athletes will be taking part in the games, with the youngest being around the age of two. Participants will be in Cherokee County from Swain, Clay, Macon and Graham counties as well as the Qualla Boundary. For athletes that do well enough, the state games will be held June 1-3 at N.C. State University in Raleigh.
    In addition to the 19 different track and field events at Friday’s event, there will also be an “Olympic Town,” where spectators and participants alike can dabble in such fun activities as face-painting and bean bag tosses.
    But perhaps the most fitting description of the event is the theme of the games, derived from the Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go. There is absolutely no limit to the emotion and achievements that will take place at Murphy High School on Friday.
    “It’s a really big deal for the games to be here,” Parker said. “Just in the logistics of it alone, since the kids don’t have to travel to get to it. Plus, I think it has really rallied our community and people have really done a great job getting the word out. The excitement from the public is very rewarding.
    “The athletes will tell you, ‘Yeah, I threw really far or I ran really fast, but I made new friends.’ They take it back down to basics and you understand that life is good.”