Special Olympics SC and Fort Jackson celebrate 50 years of partnership and inclusion

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - This year marks 50 years of Special Olympics in South Carolina and nationwide.

On Friday, law enforcement personnel from across the state converged on the South Carolina State House in downtown Columbia to kick off the summer games.

The official opening ceremony is at Fort Jackson Friday night at 7:30 PM. President and CEO of Special Olympics South Carolina, Barry Coats, said that 1500 athletes and coaches will be at the opening ceremony.

"We have our law enforcement torch run," Coats said. "And then they'll make the run from the State House to Fort Jackson and that'll start our opening ceremonies."

Law enforcement personnel from Aiken County, Lexington County, and Sullivan's Island made the trek over the past couple of days in support of Special Olympics.

"It's a lot of fun, we have a lot of folks involved," Coats said. "This is our 50th anniversary at Fort Jackson. Just in our little state of South Carolina, we have 28,902 athletes that are currently participating in 26 sports over 400 competitions throughout the year."

Nobody knows the significance of having a place to compete better than 20-year-old Tyler Chambers.

"I power-lift," Tyler said. "I've been doing squats, deadlift and bench press."

Tyler has autism, but you'd barely know it by talking to him. He's incredibly high-functioning and holds a full-time job. He was also selected to be a part of South Carolina's delegation to the Special Olympics USA  games this summer in Seattle, WA.

"I am very excited to go to Seattle to meet up with other state athletes and coaches. I'm pretty excited about it," Tyler said.

He offers this advice to any athlete pursuing a Special Olympics sport.

"Just relax," he said. "You can do anything that you want."

The state games take place from May 11 – May 13. You can find more information here. The 2018 USA games take place June 30 - July 7.

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