The 50th anniversary of the first ever Special Olympics in Oklahoma will be taking place later this month, with southern Oklahoma sending several athletes on a quest for gold.
Located at Oklahoma State University’s campus in Stillwater, Ardmore City Schools will be sending 22 athletes from their middle school to participate in this year’s Special Olympics.
Donna Stanton is in her 37th year teaching in the Ardmore school system and has spent her entire career teaching in the special education program.
“I wish everyone would do it (Special Olympics), it is such a beneficial program,” Stanton said.”We start talking about the Special Olympics the first day of school, and the first thing the kids wanna know is where we are going.”
The Special Olympics is near and dear to Stanton and her family, who has been participating in the event for the last 37 years,
Stanton has a nephew, John Stanton, Jr., of Ringling, who has been participating in the Special Olympics for the past 41 years.
Recently, John Stanton, Jr., and his family, parents John Stanton, Sr., and Betty Stanton, his brother Chad Stanton and sister-in-law Kandi Staton, were awarded the Area Family of the Year for Fun Country Area Special Olympics for their work and activity in the Special Olympics program,.
The family received their award April 3rd at a track and field competition at Pauls Valley. John Stanton, Jr., will also be participating May 15-17 in an event called Bocce.
“He was so excited, he loved the recognition alongside his brother,” Donna Stanton said. “ They didn’t know it was coming so it was kind of exciting.”
During the three-day period, the athletes will be involved in several activities including a dance on the Cowboys football stadium and opening ceremonies.
Last year’s event had close to 6,000 participants, with the same expected this year.
“It just warms my heart when you go up there and see any athlete or what level of disability, just to see their smiles when they cross the line whether they are first or last, up there they aren’t different,” Donna Stanton said. “Up there they are the main story, just to have the encouragement and stuff from spectators is awesome.”