Two Area 14 athletes brought home ribbons from the 2023 Special Olympics’ Equestrian Show at Lander University. Over 40 athletes competed in event pole bending, weaving a pattern, trail classes and equitation divisions. Area 14 was well represented by Morgan Bates and Nick Kendrick.
Morgan Bates and Abigail, her Black Tennessee walking horse, received first place ribbons in all three divisions and a belt buckle for the fastest time in pole bending. Nick Kendrick and Pebbles, his Tri Colored Paint Horse, received ribbons for first place in trail class, second place in pole bending, and third place in equitation in his division.
Area 14 Special Olympics, led by Kathy Schofield and Tessa Hilley, embodies the mission of Special Olympics to provide, “opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. The scope of the local program is vast with opportunities offered in equestrian areas, swimming, bowling, corn hole, cheer, soccer, swimming, golf, bocce, basketball, track and field, pickleball, softball, and bocce just to name a few.
Yvette Bates, Morgan’s mother, raves about this special program. “We recently moved to the Anderson Area and found the Special Olympics and the Rainbow Gang here in Area 14. It was the best thing to happen to her and us as a family.” Morgan is a 28-year-old diagnosed with Central Auditory Processing disorder, Non-Verbal Learning Disability (Autism Spectrum) and Sensory Integration. The Bates Family attend events together and participate as a family. They feel the events help build self-esteem and have brought many friendships into Morgan’s life.
Morgan competes in many sports but when it comes to the equestrian events, she gives the credit to Abigail. “Abigail won it for me,” she said. As for her reward for success, “She’ll have an apple and a banana. And she gets to rest.”
Lisa Hartman is the coach for the Area 14 Anderson County Special Olympics Equestrian Team. She is very proud of the work these athletes were able to deliver to prepare to compete. Lisa is also the Founder and Director of SHARE Therapeutic Program. SHARE’s goal is to help each individual find a sense of belonging and self-efficiency.
Mary Kendrick, Nick’s mother can’t say enough about the benefit Nick has received from his participation in this program. They ride 130 miles round trip because the SHARE program is that special. “ I am so thankful for the Share Therapeutic Program! My son, Nicholas, was born at 26 weeks, and he had a Grade IV brain bleed. This resulted in Hydrocephalus where he has two shunts in his brain to drain the extra fluid off. This caused him to have Cerebral Palsy, seizure disorder, and developmental delays. He thrives so much from riding horses as it helps his muscle tone.”
Training continues as the Fall State Games approach. They will be held in Myrtle Beach this September. Morgan looks forward to competing in bowling. Hopefully, Area 14 will have many athletes participating.
What amazing resources we have in Anderson County for our special needs community. Volunteers are always welcome. I have been blessed to spend some time with the Rainbow Gang. I promise you any time spent there will bring a smile to your face and bless you beyond measure. Donations are also needed for scholarships in some sports. Let’s all strive to support and celebrate these olympians as they follow their oath. “Let me win; but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.