August 5, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of


MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Department of Mental Health joins in congratulating the eighteen Special Olympics athletes and three coaches from all over Alabama who recently traveled to Athens, Greece to compete in the 2011 World Summer Games. The talented athletes did their country, and especially their home state, proud.

ADMH contracts with Special Olympics Alabama in support of physical education and competitive activities for people with intellectual disabilities. ADMH Commissioner Zelia Baugh said, “We are proud to serve Alabamians with intellectual disabilities, and these Special Olympians prove that we should look not at their disabilities, but at their abilities.” Funding from ADMH assists in providing training, lodging and related supplies such as state awards, ribbons and medals.

Medals were something they became accustomed to collecting at the World Summer Games where the Alabama athletes joined 315 other athletes from every state and the District of Columbia as well as 125 coaches and managers to comprise Special Olympics Team USA. Their months of training and preparation for this important event certainly paid off. Back in March, the Alabama athletes joined all the other Team USA members in San Diego for five days of training, meeting their coaches and melding as a sports team. Before departing for their trip to Athens on June 25, the athletes met in Baltimore on June 18 to unite as Team USA. They reconnected with coaches and left the next day as a group on two military planes for the Isle of Rhodes to rest, have some fun, get their body clocks in sync, meet some natives and enjoy different foods. They left Rhodes by ferry boat for Athens on June 24 (an 18-hour trip) for the Opening Ceremony at the original Olympic stadium on June 26.

At the World Games, six individual Alabama athletes competed in four sports. Raymond Ervin, from Anniston, won a gold medal and 4th and 5th place ribbons in bocce. Michelle Swain, also from Anniston and also competing in bocce, won a gold medal and two silver medals. Jackie Fuller from Cullman competed in bowling and picked up two gold medals and one silver medal. Carlos Henderson from Chatom showed his strength by competing in the power lifting competitions and took home two silver medals and two participant ribbons. Likewise, Anthony Madaris from Loxley won four 4th place ribbons after displaying his skills in power lifting. Finally, Jane Cameron from Montgomery won the bronze medal in the sailing competition.

The other 12 Alabama athletes comprised an already well known volleyball team. Joyce Adams, Jay Bighems, Elizabeth Bronold, James Coleman, Charles Fournier, William Gill, BJ Gray, Gregory Guilford, Andrew Neve, Robert Shaw, Michael Springfield, and Robbie Wilson, all from Dothan, continued an impressive win streak and brought gold medals back to Alabama. Joined by three coaches, also all from Dothan, this volleyball team competed in the National Games 2006 in Ames, Iowa, and were undefeated. They also competed in the National Games 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska and again went undefeated. Following that precedent, the team went undefeated again in their division in these games to bring home the gold. Acknowledging all of the Alabama athletes’ accomplishments, Dr. Robert Bushong, executive director of Special Olympics Alabama, said, “We are humbled and gratified that Special Olympics Alabama athletes remain in the forefront of the Special Olympics movement worldwide.” Alabama athletes have competed in every major Special Olympics event since the first took place in Chicago in 1968.

This year marked the 13th Special Olympics World Summer Games. Every two years, thousands of Special Olympics athletes worldwide come together to showcase their athletic skills and celebrate the spirit of Special Olympics. Alternating between Summer Games and Winter Games, Special Olympics World Games bring public attention to the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, helping to create a world of inclusion and acceptance. Special Olympics North America President and Managing Director Bob Gobrecht said, “Competing in the World Games is a chance of a lifetime for many of these athletes, but also a chance for the rest of the world to witness the accomplishments and victories of people with intellectual disabilities.”



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