Celebrating the Olympians Among Us

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Kearney Special Olympics Honors Athletes and Volunteers at Annual Banquet

Kearney, Mo., April 30, 2021: A league of extraordinary champions exists in the land of the Bullldogs.

The Kearney Special Olympics organization hosted its annual banquet and awards night on Thursday, April 29 at Jesse James Park. The event was an opportunity to celebrate student-athletes, their families and the volunteers who provide support.

About 50 people gathered and greeted each other in the magic-hour sunset light under the cover of the park pavilion. They enjoyed hotdogs and sides donated by the Kearney Price Chopper and served by volunteers with the Kearney Optimists Club.

For many, it was the first opportunity they’ve had in more than a year to gather in celebration of Special Olympics. The 2020 banquet was canceled due to COVID-19. Kearney School District Special Olympics Sponsor GiGi Leighr smiled as she scanned the park.

“Having to cancel last year was really hard because this is such a close-knit group of people,” Ms. Leighr said. “Everyone here is very supportive of each other. We love to celebrate everyone’s successes.”

This year’s banquet featured an awards ceremony for the athletes who competed in bowling, basketball, track & field, cheerleading and dance in 2020 and 2021. A number of volunteers were also recognized.

The evening culminated with Kearney Special Olympics coaches awarding Kearney High School letters to three student-athletes: Sam Lappe, Max Thene and Hunter Ethen. Later, the student-athletes and volunteers gathered for group photos. They stood smiling while proud parents and other family members and friends snapped pictures.

“This is so great,” Leighr said. “You can see why all this means so much to everyone involved.”

Contact GiGi Leighr at leighrg@ksdr1.net for more information about how to participate in or support Kearney Special Olympics.

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