During the second week of July, the bus parking lot at Hillsville Elementary seemed unusually full. Passers-by may have wondered about the cars, trucks, fire trucks and first responder vehicles. They needn’t have worried.
Something was going on, all right; but it was something very GOOD. Carroll County Special Olympics was holding its fifth annual week-long basketball camp, and lots of guest stars were showing up to make it a success.
Everyday, parents took turns providing a crockpot lunch. Gatorade donated drinks, and several families brought water, fruit, and snacks. On Monday, Galax girls’ basketball coach Howard Mayo came to do a very entertaining skills clinic. On Tuesday morning, Virginia Blaze and Coach Matt Foy worked on basics and then played a mini-scrimmage versus the campers. That afternoon, Captain Mike and Firefighter Shannon from Galax Fire Department did a wonderful class on what to do if caught in a fire.
Wednesday morning, Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Kemp and Safety Pup were a big hit. That afternoon, Coach Brandi Mitchell did a session of fun relays and games that had everyone laughing and scrambling. Thursday morning, Stephanie Burnette brought Pet Partners therapy dogs for everyone to enjoy. That afternoon, Kesha Phillips taught a basic sign language class with great enthusiasm.
On Friday morning, Kyla Ford and her 16 helpers did our biggest SUPERFIT of the summer with 10 stations to build strength and endurance. Coach Stephen Barber brought six of his athletes from Roanoke to help work on shooting and dribbling skills. That afternoon, Roger Hawthorne and three members of the Hillsville Fire Department, along with two from Carroll EMS, came to talk safety with the campers. Spraying a fire hose in the parking lot was a lot of fun! A spectacular finish took place when the Blue Ridge Panthers scrimmaged against the campers in a fast-paced game that showcased the skills they had been working on all week.
In between all these guests, the team worked on “getting better.” They were made to feel VERY welcome at Hillsville Elementary by Principal Samantha Reed and her staff. One team building activity they enjoyed everyday was using the school’s big parachute.
“The whole week was amazing, but by far the most anticipated event each day was our Deputy Curtis Bartlett 122 Challenge,” said Coach Vickey Ritchie. “We divide up among the baskets and see how long it takes us to score 122 baskets. That was Curtis Bartlett’s badge number. Each day, we try to do it faster, but everyone has to be making baskets and trying their best to make it work. On Friday, his dad Sam Bartlett came to watch and was so moved by this simple way the team came up with to honor Curtis and his devotion to fitness and young people.”
Carroll County Special Olympics would like to thank everyone in the community that came out for Boo Ridge 5K, the Basketball Classic, and the Battle of the Badges. Along with making possible the year-round activities of the team, these fundraisers pay for the t-shirts, awards and supplies for this camp, which has become the biggest event of the year.
“I would like to thank the high school and middle school and even elementary school volunteers, and the family members, that came to help and participate,” said Coach Ritchie. “We simply could not do what we do without them. Many of them play as unified partners year round with our team. Others just show up for this camp. All of them honor and respect our athletes.”
The team would like to invite the public to join them on Saturday, October 13 for Boo Ridge 5K and Fun Runs at Hillsville Elementary. This fundraiser has a Facebook Page, and entry forms will be available soon. You can request one by writing CCSO at P.O. Box 173 in Hillsville, or by messaging on Facebook.