Special Olympics Tennessee unites athletes at annual Summer Games

Posted at 5:39 AM, May 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-22 11:02:51-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Special Olympics Tennessee hosted its highly anticipated annual Summer Games on Saturday, drawing participants from across the Volunteer State to compete in a display of athleticism and camaraderie.

Among the hundreds of athletes showcasing their talent and determination at Lipscomb University was Kevin Evans. Evans is an experienced athlete who loves the games.

"We love it. We've been doing it for many, many years, and we love having memories for ourselves," Evans said.

Evans was representing Metro Parks, along with Kevin Donelson, Kenneth Carpenter, and Joshua Putman. They all played on the same volleyball team.

For Donelson, the bond between the athletes goes beyond sports. "These are my brothers in Christ. I help them; they help me," Donelson said.

Memphis native Daphne Rankin, cousin of Kevin Donelson, expressed her admiration for the camaraderie exhibited by the athletes.

"I love how they support one another," Rankin said. She attended to support her cousin in the powerlifting competition.

This year's Summer Games saw a remarkable turnout, with over 800 athletes and Unified Partners from various corners of the state participating in the competition.

"It's great to see them come out and see old faces, new faces, friends, and be able to come together as a powerlifting family," Powerlifting coach Nina Weston said.

One athlete-turned-volunteer, Jordan Casey, considered returning to the event as a blessing.

"When you can get your mindset to something, especially if it's something you want to accomplish, you can do that," Casey said.

Casey has competed before, this year he transitioned to a volunteer role. He encouraged ongoing support for athletes and cherished the chance to participate alongside loved ones.

Adding to the excitement of the event, the opening ceremony on Friday they welcomed Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel as a special guest, inspiring athletes with a speech.