North Augusta Elementary School pupil Davis Hill grinned as he went through the obstacle course Friday while his buddy, Ashlyn Wanninger, followed and encouraged him.
“He’s awesome,” said the Fox Creek High School senior of Davis at the Area 15 Special Olympics games at Midland Valley High School.
It was her third year volunteering as a buddy for Special Olympics competitors. Giving back to the community was her reason for volunteering the first year, and that experience encouraged her to do so again, she said.
“The first year I did it was such a life-changing experience,” she said. “I learned so much and it gave me a different outlook on things.”
Wanninger was one of 25 volunteers from Fox Creek who were buddies for Special Olympics participants. The volunteers consisted of students from the school’s Teacher Cadet class and other students who applied to be volunteers, said Tammie Alan, a special education teacher at Fox Creek.
“It’s a great learning experience for students,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to give back and to learn how to embrace differences.”
Competitors competed in a variety of events including long jump, running races and softball throw.
Paul Knox Middle School pupil Cameron Landrum, 12, won a blue ribbon in softball throw and it was his favorite activity, he said.
Fellow Paul Knox pupil Fred Davis enjoyed running the most.
“I like building muscles,” said the 13-year old as he pointed to his upper arm.
Between events, volunteers and competitors interacted, having fun and laughing. They walked the field between events, created areas to eat their lunch in a picnic-like fashion, and a few danced as North Augusta High School’s band played.
Erin Calloway and Jacqueline Phillips, volunteers from North Augusta High, cheered on their buddies as they ran in a relay race.
Being able to volunteer is “wonderful,” said Erin, 15.
“It shows you that they aren’t different,” she said. “We’re all having fun together.”
“People have different opinions about people with mental or physical disabilities, but we're more alike than people think,” said the 14-year-old.