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      Young Athletes train with Special Olympics

      Being active and playing sports is a big part of any child's life, but there's something about a game that brings more to life than a competitive edge. It can be life changing, especially for the future stars that spent their Thursday, July 11, 2013 afternoon learning about all kinds of sports activities.

      Like many children I have great memories of playing every sport I could growing up. Today I was able to see that joy on a number of young children's faces as they participated in Future Stars Sports Day in Amarillo.

      Ranging from two to seven years old, 25 children took part in a multitude of activities where they worked to develop and strengthen foundation hand-eye coordination skills. Their coaches were 21 of the regular Special Olympics athletes.

      Although these skills are often overlooked by many people, they have a huge value to these children.

      "I think by allowing the kids at a very young age to be integrated together and learn that it's ok to play with children with intellectual disabilities is a wonderful thing," said Special Olympics Texas Director, Megan Spivey "It teaches them from a young age they don't have to be so separate. That we're really trying to make this an all-inclusive program."

      The benefits of bringing together Special Olympics Texas and the Young Athletes program are endless as they change lives through the power of sports by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities.

      Today's event created a community of understanding, respect, and acceptance for everyone as children with and without special needs played together.

      Many of the coaches said they enjoy being able to give back and help the children learn.

      "Joy is the only word that comes to mind when I watch these kids play," said coach and Special Olympics athlete, Casey "Just seeing these kids, the smiles, the absolute joy on their faces as they do something that could benefit them in the future is unforgettable."

      Athletes and their families went home with a plethora of award ribbons, smiles, new friends to cherish, and a love for sports. Families said it means a lot to see their children fit in and enjoy a day in the park.

      One mom said it is great to see her daughter open up and become less shy as she interacted with her peers and coaches.

      Daphnee Cox, mother of young athlete, Bethany said her family really appreciates the support and the program.

      "It's just really good to see the community reach out to our little ones who are having just a little bit of trouble in some areas and it just means a lot." said Cox.

      These little, but mighty athletes had more try and grit in them than any professional sports star I've ever seen.

      Their endurance to never give up, be the best they can be, and have fun while doing it was impeccable.

      As the fun and games came to a close I could not help but notice each and every participant and coach was far from disabled, rather they were enabled to be great in every way.

      Many of the children who participated in today's event will move on to participate in the Special Olympics once they turn eight years old.