Missouri's Special Olympics summer games underway

The Missouri Special Olympics Summer Games are officially underway, after a lively opening ceremony that included a band performance and an appearance by Governor Nixon.

Thousands of Special Olympics athletes and coaches from all over the state gathered at the Hickman High School track for the ceremony. Almost as many friends and supporters were in the stands to cheer the athletes on.

The KISS tribute band "Almost KISS" performed live music for the ceremony.

Clayton Korb and his father said they appreciate the massive effort. â??All the people and all the help that you get, just the friendliness of everybody,â?? Korb said. â??You get to go to places with people. Itâ??s just a fun thing to do.â??

2,500 coaches and athletes are participating in this yearâ??s Summer Games, which will take place at Hickman High School, Town & Country Lanes, and MizzouRec Complex.

Friday was full of activities for athletes and their families. Dozens of teams competed in volleyball and basketball, which ran from 10 a.m. until 4 and 5 p.m., respectively. Athletes also had a chance to compete in aquatics, bowling, and power lifting.

Special Olympics athlete Travis Mankin said he has been in the Special Olympics for over 30 years. This year, he said he expected Columbiaâ??s Summer Games to be easier on his team than in years past.

â??When I played in St. Louis there was more of a challenge,â?? Mankin said. â??But itâ??s a challenge here too. My team does awesome here.â??

The athletes will have a full schedule for the weekend. Saturday, the day begins at 6 a.m. with breakfast, followed by a day of track and field, bowling, aquatics, and power lifting. Saturday is capped off with a dance and bingo session at Hickman High School beginning at 7 p.m. The Summer Games wrap up at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Central Region Program Director Diane Brimer said it is all worth it in the end. â??They have worked hard,â?? Brimer said. â??They really enjoy showing people what they can do, and itâ??s really great when they have a lot of family members, people who come out and just cheer for them and watch them.â??