Special Olympics touches the hearts of everyone involved - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Special Olympics touches the hearts of everyone involved

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

"Go Special Olympics," yelled Mike Roberson and Susan Gunter.

Event organizer Beth Matthews said when she started volunteering with the Special Olympics Equestrian Competition 17 years ago, she never imagined it would bring her such joy.

"It's a way for these athletes to get out and interact with the community that they would not normally have that opportunity to do," said Matthews.

"To see the smiles and the expressions and the love, it's just overwhelming."

That love and passion exuded from all participants.

Mike Roberson and Susan Gunter have competed in the equestrian events for more than 15 years.

"It's fun, you get to learn a lot of things. If you've never been on a horse, you need to come out here and learn how to ride one," said Roberson."

They said they are what they call pros, and know all the ins-and-outs of the competition.

"How to back it up, do figure eights," said Roberson.

Area 3 Special Olympics has been held at the Harrison County Fairgrounds for almost 20 years. The reason participants keep coming back is simple.

"Fun and I love it," said Susan Gunter.

The volunteers feel it might be even more rewarding for them.

"I'm proud, very proud," said Matthews.

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