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Special Olympics Field Day Returning to Bethany College

BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College is seeking athletes of all ages to participate in its second Special Olympics field day on Oct. 24 at the Thomas Phillips Johnson Health and Recreation Center.

Special needs individuals will learn the fundamentals of football, soccer, volleyball, and basketball from 1 to 4 p.m.  Register here.

Bethany first hosted the event in 2019, drawing several athletes and more than 100 student volunteers from Bethany and nearby colleges.

Allison Paxton, of Canonsburg, Pa., organized the first field day during her freshman year at Bethany and is excited to see it return in her senior year.

“It’s important to me because all the athletes have a special place in my heart. I do this for them,” Paxton said. “There was so much momentum from the last Special Olympics Field Day, and everyone was so happy. The smiles and the joy were contagious. Watching the community unite for the event was unbelievably humbling and inspiring, and I knew I wanted to continue it.”

The field day was canceled in 2020 amid COVID-19 restrictions, but Paxton said she remained hopeful it would return.

“With COVID-19, there has been a lot of disappointment and loss, and it’s affected every single one of us,” she said. “None of us have been immune to the challenges of the pandemic.”

This summer, she approached Bethany’s leadership about re-establishing the field day. Paxton said the deaths of Bethany students Jordan Weaver and Mitchell Sotera, both 20, in an Ohio house fire over the summer inspired her to advocate even more for the event.

“I knew our community needed hope and a light despite the tragedy,” she said. “It took a long time to receive approval due to the changing climate of the pandemic, but I’m excited to be able to host the event. It’s a bittersweet moment, but I’m confident that I’ll be leaving the event in good hands with Madison McDonald.”

McDonald, a sophomore elementary education major from Jacksonville, Fla., is assisting Paxton with organizing this year’s field day.

Paxton is a psychology major, a Presidential Scholar and a member of the Bison track team.

Her desire to help people with special needs is personal. As a first-grader, she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. Though the diagnosis was a closely guarded secret because of a desire to be “normal,” she decided to share her story when planning the 2019 Special Olympics Field Day.

“These athletes mean the world to me, and I want them to know that anything is possible,” she said then. “From experience, I’ve learned that there are people out there who consider individuals with special needs as inferior and unable to succeed in life; however, we have the capability to go above and beyond the expectations that are set for us.”

Organizers are following Centers for Disease Control and Bethany College COVID-19 guidelines. The event is limited to 50 on-site volunteers from the Bethany College community and 30 participating athletes.

Additional volunteers will work behind the scenes, Paxton said.

ABOUT BETHANY COLLEGE

Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.

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