By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — Darke County Special Olympics Track and Field Day welcomed school-aged special needs athletes from all local Darke County schools. More than 200 student athletes, nearly 50 volunteers and awards presenters, as well as countless spectators gathered at The Jennings Center Track and Field Complex next to Greenville High School on Monday, May 15, to participate in the 45th year of the annual event. Despite a weather-related rescheduling, the DC Special Olympics enjoyed a full turnout for 2023.
The Darke County Special Olympics, founded in 1978, began with Sue Wilson as its original director. According to Greenville teacher and current Darke County Special Olympics Director of more than two decades, Cindy Rose, it started with about eight athletes who participated in a track and field event in Dayton. The following year, the first Darke County Special Olympics Track and Field event took place locally.
One volunteer, Mike Gray, has never missed an Olympics. When asked what keeps him coming back year after year, Gray said, “Oh, I love this!” The former Mississinawa Valley and Ansonia Schools superintendent and long-time superintendent of Darke County Educational Service Center (ESC) is, himself, a graduate of Arcanum High School. Involvement in the community and support of this program is clearly important to him. Although he may have recently retired from his career in education, his volunteer efforts remain strong.
Rose said, “All these people, high school kids are amazing today, from Greenville High School and Arcanum, [who] came this afternoon—it doesn’t happen without them and the teachers coming.”
Melissa Riethman of GHS Supply Chain Management class, a tremendous benefactor of the DC Special Olympics, added, “The seniors even rearranged their Senior Skip Day [to be here]!”
Rose continued, “I’ll speak about this forever that Darke County Schools support our school-aged program more than other counties. Also, changing it to a school day—it used to be on a Saturday, this event, and the numbers were really down—but, I had a teacher years ago present to me to do it on a school day as they had done in her former district in North Carolina, and the busses and superintendents were on it! One thing that came out of COVID has been splitting the day, and that has been an amazing decision; it makes it easier on everyone.”
Rose attributes the success and longevity of the Special Olympics program to the unparalleled community and organizational support found in Darke County.
Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.