TERRE HAUTE —
As foot-stomping music blared amid alternating stage lights, 2,562 athletes made their way into Hulman Center through a line of high-fives during the opening ceremony of the 45th annual Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games Friday on the campus of Indiana State University.
Teams from 68 counties, with more than 1,100 coaches and chaperones, 1,200 event volunteers and 3,000 spectators and families helped kick off the games that will include eight different sports — aquatics, bocce, bowling, cycling, horseshoes, powerlifting, track & field and volleyball — at sites at ISU and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Thomas and Kelly Evans attended the ceremony for the 10th year, as their three daughters, age 18, 28 and 29, will participate in track events. Their middle daughter, Anne, will compete in the Special Olympics USA National Games in Princeton, New Jersey, later this month.
“We will be busy, busy,” Thomas Evans said.
Their daughter is among 85 members of Team Indiana that will represent the Hoosier state in the national games.
“We just enjoy the opening ceremony here,” Kelly Evans said. “Its a memorable event. We just want to be here for our kids.”
The two selected their seats an hour before the event began at 7 p.m.
Olympic gold medalist Greg Bell is the honorary chair of the summer games. When an athlete asked how long he had jumped, his Olympic accomplishment was displayed as the distance of 25 feet, 81⁄4 inches was marked off on the stage.
Troy and Twila Patterson of Fort Wayne said the special Olympics are a binding event for their family as two of their three children — son Tanner, 16, and daughter, Tiana, 13, who are each adopted — compete in the games.
The two athletes hope to repeat for the fourth time as gold medalists in their fourth year of competition in track events. Daughter Tessa, 10, is the cheerleader of the family, Patterson said.
“It is the one weekend out of the year that we can go and not have to put on a show. It is the one time that we are accepted,” Twila Patterson said. “Society puts such a focus on disabilities and special needs, yet this is the one time where we are the people. We are important. The city really goes all out.”
The Pattersons are the “Area 3 family of the year.” There are 10 areas in the state that compete in the games. “We encourage others that you know that is not the life that we planned, but it is the life we are living and we will keep climbing the mountains,” said Twila Patterson, who suffers herself from an eye disease.
“Tessa helps. That’s her job, to tell me when Tanner and Tiana are coming, so we can cheer them on,” Twila said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or email@example.com.