Help fill the stands for Special Olympics

Fans in the Stands

Monday, the opening ceremonies of the Mecklenburg County Special Olympics takes place at Bojangles' Coliseum. No matter how  many people attend, the athletes will have a great time and be smiling ear to ear.

But, hundreds of screaming fans holding posters in support would certainly make their big day even better.

Vanessa Infanzon is helping to organize the effort to fill the stands with fans. She started her campaign last year, and the response was incredible. Hundreds of first-timers came out to cheer the athletes on. Before, it was usually just a small group of family and friends.

She did it for her son, Ben, who is a Special Olympics athlete, but also for all the children who train and work hard to compete.

One of those participants is John, who trains at the Harris YMCA as a long-distance swimmer.

His coaches are proud, and they want John and the others to get the full experience of crowd support.
 
"It gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride that what they're doing matters," said one of his volunteer coaches, Amy Clark. "Makes them feel like rock stars, super stars and they are," she said.
 
Special Olympics is huge for these families. They live with challenges and barriers in every day life. The games provide a win in so many ways. 
 
"They get to compete just like everyone else." said coach Heleen Hogan.
 
John will be happy no matter what. Perhaps the biggest reaction, is felt most deeply by the people who show up.
 
"I am overwhelmed. It just reminds us that Charlotte is a community that cares and we do celebrate all our residents. Just tell us where to go, point us in the direction."

That was Leann Simmons, last year. There's a chance on Monday for a lot of people to join her and add to the enthusiasm this year.

If you can't make the opening ceremonies, which start at 10:00 a.m. and run until noon, there are other events throughout the week.

Competition Schedule:

Tuesday, April 21 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Athletics Competition & Awards (middle/high/adult ages) Charlotte Country Day School (1440 Carmel Road, Charlotte)

Wednesday, April 22 Athletics Competition & Awards (elementary ages) 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Charlotte Country Day School (1440 Carmel Road, Charlotte)

Wednesday, April 22 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Aquatics Competition & Awards (all ages) Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center (800 East Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Charlotte)

Thursday, April 23 Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics (all ages) 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (11725 Verhoeff Dr, Huntersville, NC)

Friday, April 24 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Athletics Team Competition & Awards (high/adult ages) Mallard Creek High School, (3825 Johnston Oehler Rd, Charlotte, NC 28269)

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