Published On: Fri, Apr 30th, 2010

Cherokee hosts Special Olympics


Jacee Smith, Qualla Boundary Special Olympics team member, digs hard in the Women's 800M run during the Far West Spring Games held at Ray Kinsland Stadium on Friday, April 30. (Photos by Scott McKie B.P./One Feather)

“Let me win.  But, if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.”  Those words echoed throughout Ray Kinsland Stadium on Friday, April 30 as Will Poolaw, Qualla Boundary Special Olympics team member, recited the Special Olympics Athlete Oath to officially start the Far West Spring Games.  The games, part of the Special Olympics of North Carolina (SONC) program, are the first to be hosted on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

Two hundred and eighty athletes converged for various track and field events on a beautiful spring day.  Robert Kanott, Qualla Boundary Special Olympics team member, gave the opening invocation which was followed by the lighting of torches representing each program present. 

 A torch run, consisting of members of various area law enforcement agencies along with volunteers and athletes, began on US441 earlier in the morning and winded through the streets of Cherokee culminating in the stadium.  

“We love you and we want everybody to have good sportsmanship out today and have a great time and hopefully make a new friend,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks as he welcomed everyone at the opening ceremonies.  “We are so glad to have you and have each of the counties of western North Carolina represented here today.” 

Will Poolaw, Qualla Boundary Special Olympics team member, recites the Special Olympics Athletes Oath to help open the games.

Keith L. Fishburne is the president/ceo of SONC and was present at Friday’s event.  “It is such a pleasure to be here in this beautiful setting.  This is probably one of the best Spring Games opening ceremonies I have been a part of.” 

Fishburne continued, “I’m very proud of what goes on here on the Qualla Boundary because it wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t have much in the Special Olympics world happening.”  He said that much has been accomplished in Cherokee over the past ten years with the Special Olympics program. 

Tony Wolfe, Qualla Boundary Special Olympics team member, commented, “I feel like the Special Olympics for the Qualla Boundary is a special step for people with special disabilities.  It gives us more opportunities to do things that we never thought we could ever do and I’m just proud to be a part of it.” 

Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe raises the placard as the Qualla Boundary team begins to parade in. Many members of the community and volunteers came out to support the team and walk with them during the opening ceremonies.

Lana Lambert, Qualla Boundary Special Olympics coordinator, organized Friday’s event.  “We’re excited to have the Far West Spring Games here in Cherokee today.  It’s the first time we’ve had them here and we have around 300 athletes and lots of volunteers and spectators having a wonderful day.” 

She continued, “We wanted to invite everybody out to our community to see how we do things and to experience some of our life…”

To view a photo gallery of the Special Olympics Torch Run, please visit:

To view a photo gallery of the Special Olympics, please visit: