Athletes gather for Special Olympics Opening Ceremony

A Special Olympics participant shakes hands with a Knight of Columbus during the entrance parade during the Special Olympics Summer Games opening ceremony on May 25.

Trevor Holbrook

Once again, Hilton Coliseum was filled with energy and passion.

This time it wasn’t for basketball, but for the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony.

The ceremony kicked off with team introductions, followed by guest speakers Ames Mayor Ann Campbell and Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell.

Mayor Campbell and Coach Campbell spoke about their love of the Special Olympics. The large crowd in Hilton also got Coach Campbell amped up for football season.

“[To] see so many great athletes, families, and coaches be here tonight, you almost get me excited for football season,” Campbell said.

Suzie Moorman, the athlete that gave last year’s Special Olympic speech, handed the honor over to fellow Special Olympic athlete Traci Long.

Long suffers from a severe heart disorder and has had multiple heart attacks that led to a temporary halt in her career. That didn’t stop her, though.

Long overcame her health setbacks and can compete again.

“[I will] always be involved with Special Olympics because it makes me happy”, said Long. “I knew coaches and teammates would welcome me back with open arms.”

For the past 10 years the Iowa Cheerleading Coaches Association has conducted performances for the athletes. The cheerleaders followed Long’s speech with their performance, maintaining the energy.

Athlete Shelly Wade continued the tradition of the Torch Run by running a lap around Hilton and igniting the main flame.

The Knights of Columbus aided the tradition and have raised over $1.5 million since 1975. The goal of the Torch Run is to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics.

As the ceremony neared conclusion, athlete Joey Bevans led his fellow athletes in the Special Olympics Athlete Oath.

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”, the athletes recited after Bevans.

To close out the ceremony, Traci Long said the words everyone was waiting to hear.

“Let the Summer Games begin!”