Clark County Special Olympics garners support from the community

Published 12:49 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

On Thursday, Jan. 11th, a gymnasium in Winchester was packed with supportive fans ready to cheer.

While GRC Cards and Lady Cards basketball team members were present, neither were in uniform to play.

Instead, at Baker Intermediate School, a packed crowd appeared and supported Clark County Special Olympics, whose basketball team began its season with competition against Madison County.

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“They’re all doing great. We’re just excited that we have such a big crowd out here to watch and support them,” said Lindsay Wagoner, a special education teacher at Baker Intermediate School who also helps coach. “They love it!”

The Clark County Special Olympics basketball team mainly features a group of students from Clark County Public Schools, grades five through twelve, chosen by various teachers.

Like any other athletic team, they practice weekly, and – after a schedule that typically features at least five games – a regional tournament takes place.

Previously, individual and team accomplishments have been attained, with competition throughout central Kentucky and more.

Members of the 2023-24 roster include Hayden Arnold, Sarah Banks, Donte Barnett, Derrick Clem, Devon Clem, Brad Crowe, Weston Dalton, Brandon Estes, Nate Estes, Caidyn Favron Aguirre, Ethan Hack, Varey Jouett, Harley Kathlina, Mayson Letcher, Treavon Peters, Aiden Westerdale and Katrina Withrow.

The team has its cheerleading squad as well.

For Alison Conley, who helps sponsor the Buddies of the Bluegrass program at George Rogers Clark High School, assisting with the program – as she’s done for eight years – is essential.

“It means a lot to me,” Conley said. “I just love seeing these kids get out there and do other things that their peers get to do.”

While basketball is exciting, it’s far from the only way Clark County Special Olympics offers opportunities for students.

Other athletic ventures include bowling, track, swimming and soccer.

Outside of athletics, dances have taken place too.

Chenise Jouett, the mother of athlete Varey Jouett, said the program benefits her daughter.

“By doing this, it gets her out of the house. She enjoys being with her teammates, and she enjoys basketball,” Jouett said , noting that Varey’s younger sister is a member of the Robert D. Campbell Junior High School basketball squad. “The [Clark County] Special Olympics program is really good because these kids really need to get out and be able to participate with other kids.”

Lauren Whittaker, a coach and teacher of exceptional children at RDC, states that it also helps connect students to what they learn in the classroom.

“It’s so nice to be able to work with students in the classroom, to work on academic and social skills,” Whitaker said. “It’s nice to see them generalize some of those skills here.”

With Clark County Special Olympics’ basketball team having another game scheduled at Baker Intermediate School on Thursday, Jan. 18th, against Bourbon County at 5:30 p.m., the program’s benefits show no signs of slowing down.