Morgan County High School held its annual One Morgan Special Olympics last week, celebrating diversity and the capabilities of students with disabilities for the seventh year in a row. Fifty-five student athletes participated in this year’s event, ranging from ages 3 to 19. Over 70 high school students volunteered to help orchestrate the event.
“I feel it is important to celebrate these individuals every day of the year, but One Morgan Special Olympics highlights what they can do; not what they are not able to do,” explained Meredith Holloway, founder of One Morgan Special Olympics (OMO). “This event gives each athlete an opportunity to shine and showcase their individualism and uniqueness. It is apparent that our athletes find confidence, joy, and a sense of belonging—not only on the field, but in life. My initial goal for establishing OMO was to enhance the culture at Morgan County High School by creating an avenue for acceptance and to provide opportunities for our students to connect with others that may not be just like them. Seven years later, through OMO and other initiatives, the culture at MCHS is one of acceptance, friendship, and a sense of belonging no matter the disability. In my opinion, we could not say ‘One Morgan’ without this happening. I am so very proud of our students at MCHS. The compassion, encouragement, dedication, and character that our volunteer students exemplified this year—there are really no words to describe it. One only had to look at the smiling faces of our very special athletes to see the impact our volunteers had on each and every athlete. The athlete’s laughter and excitement in discovering new strengths, abilities, skills, and friendships said it all.”
This year’s Special Olympics featured 14 games: Soccer Shoot-Out, Basketball, Long Jump, Tug of War, a sack race, a three-legged race, Football Toss, Corn hole, 50-yard dash, Bowling, Softball toss, Ring Toss,Frisbee Golf, and Putt-Putt Golf.
“Everyone was a winner and received a One Morgan Special Olympic medal,” said Holloway. “Athlete names were called during the award ceremony where they took a position on the award podium. Volunteers on either side of the podium placed medals around their necks and assisted the athletes onto the podium followed by cheers and pictures.”
Holloway was compelled to create the Special Olympics in Morgan County (OMO) to foster better relationships and positive experiences between Morgan County’s diverse population of students.
“I felt there was a need for more interaction between our typical students and students with severe intellectual disabilities,” explained Holloway.
Holloway reflected on the event’s humble beginnings and how it has evolved over the years to become one of the high school’s most beloved events. “In an effort to bridge this need, I started the B.E.S.T (Bringing Extraordinary Students Together) club. We began with five students, which eventually grew to 60-70. The club was a catalyst for establishing OMO. With some guidance and encouragement, the creation of OMO became a student-driven project. Members pitched the idea to Sarah Burbach, who at the time was MCCSS Director of Special Education and Student Support Services. Sarah Burbach was only too happy to give the green light for special Olympics in Morgan County!”
MCHS is grateful to all the community partners who made this year’s One Morgan Special Olympics possible.
“We want to give a special thanks to Burns Warfield and Chick-fil-A of Madison for once again supporting OMO by donating lunch to athletes and their teachers,” said Holloway. “Thank you to Matt Alexandar, pastor at Fusion Church, for offering and providing support this year to OMO. The youth at Fusion church made posters for our game stations and made individualized posters for each athlete held up by our spectators during the games. They also gave us the use of a tent, two games (football toss stand and frisbee toss stand), and a very generous monetary donation. Members of Fusion showed up early to help set up and assist with whatever was needed. Jeff Rogers, an associate pastor, was our opening ceremony speaker.”
MCHS also thanks the ROTC Color Guard, the MCHS chorus ladies for singing the National Anthem, the MCHS marching band students, high school, the MCHS cheerleaders, volunteer students, the high school administrators and athletic director.