The Olympic rings hung proudly above the picnic tables at Kiesel Park Thursday night as Auburn athletes and community members gathered to congratulate the Special Olympics athletes that competed in the USA Games in Seattle earlier this month.
Pictures from the USA games leaned against the walls of the pavilion for the athletes and their families to admire. While attendees gathered under the pavilion to enjoy food and lawn games.
“The athletes and the peer partners for the unified volleyball team had so much fun competing against eight other teams,” said Dana Stewart, the unified volleyball team coach. “All of the Lee County athletes and coaches had a great trip. It’s a great experience for everybody.”
One of the biggest honors of the night went to the unified volleyball team, The Plainsman reported.
The team brought home a bronze medal after defeating Georgia in a tie-breaker extra set of play.
“We had been practicing so much,” Stewart said. “You wanted them to enjoy that experience, but you wanted them to medal. But we got that medal and brought it back home.”
The team was over-joyed to bring back a win for the Lee County Special Olympics, Stewart said.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
One of the best surprises for Stewart at the USA games was the support from the Lee County Community. Fans of the Special Olympics joined Stewart’s and other Lee County Special Olympics teams in Seattle for the games.
“The national team left for Seattle,” said Crysten Conner, Special Olympics fan and supporter. “So I got up really early and went to send them off and they were so excited that we showed up.”
That same morning Conner and another friend decided to take a trip to Seattle to go cheer on the Lee County Special Olympics teams.
Conner was on a plane to Seattle within a day so that she was there in time to surprise the athletes at the opening ceremonies for the USA Games.
“We went out there and supported the team and then they won the bronze medal,” Conner said. “So when they got home we felt that it was just fitting that the community, as a whole, has a party. I sent out a message to a few of my friends and this is what we end up with.”
This event was to honor all of the Lee County Special Olympics athletes that participated in the USA Games in Seattle. Conner and other community members wanted to show the athletes how proud the community is of their performance in Seattle.
It took Conner a week to put together the celebration. She invited community members from throughout Lee County including the Auburn University Volleyball team and Aubie.
The athletes were thrilled at the response from the community that came out to congratulate them on their accomplishments in Seattle.
They autographed the photos lined up around the pavilion and posed for photos with fans.
But their work is not done yet. The unified volleyball team already has their next practiced planned and it is not far away.
“They loved that feeling of winning,” Stewart said. “We’re actually going to try to keep this unified team together and build off of it. I’m going to keep coaching them.”
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman