Parent of a Special Olympian gives special thanks
By Greg Pogue

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Greg Pogue is executive sports editor of The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn and hosts the morning sports talk show on WNSR 560-AM in Nashville. He is the son of retired Logan County educators Gordon and Nannie Ruth Pogue of Auburn.

Soon after the opening procession, John Harris led those in attendance in the Special Olympics oath.

"Let me win," Harris proclaimed Monday morning over the public address system at MTSU's Dean Hayes Track & Soccer Stadium.

"Let me win," the record number of 309 Special Olympians - along with a bevy of parents, friends, teachers, caregivers and spectators - recited back in unison.

"But if I cannot win," Harris bellowed to the crowd.

"But if I cannot win," came the reverberating response back.

"Let me brave in the attempt," Harris said.

"Let me brave in the attempt," the throng triumphantly closed.

And the 20th annual Special Olympics Area 16 track and field meet was under way.

"This is a great day," Harris said while running the event as he has every year since its inception. "It is an opportunity for the community to come together."

It is also gives Harris a chance to give back, too. After all, he is blind.

"I have a disability myself," said Harris, MTSU's Director of Disabled Student Services. " ... This is a great opportunity for me to give back. I have had services delivered to me with a disability. Here is my chance to contribute back."

And how.

But while Harris has heard many times over the well-deserved kudos and kind words of thanks for what he has done with this very special event, there is one perspective he won't be able to fully appreciate no matter how many times he hears it.

And that is one of a parent of a very Special Olympian. But we'll try:

After school a few months ago, the Smyrna High student made sure the permission slip was front and center on his father's desk to view upon his arrival home from work. Duly noted, it was followed with the persistent request that it had to be signed then and there.

Following that were daily reminders for parental attendance.

"You coming to Special Olympics?" he would ask his father many times over.

"Yes, Clay, I wouldn't miss it for the world," his father would respond many times over.

Then came the night before the meet. Long before bedtime, the wardrobe had been set.

"That looks great, Clay," the mother would say of his T-shirt with Smyrna logo and colors. "I'm just glad it's not the Milwaukee Brewers shirt again."
Then came morning of Special Olympics. Clay was excited, although crowds provide distractions and bashfulness for somebody with Fragile X Syndrome. Undaunted, he would garner ribbons in both the softball throw and 50-meter walk.

All the while, his parents - like so many others this sun-splashed morning - would fight back the tears.

"It is hard to get away from something like that when that is happening," Harris said of the many times he has thought about stepping aside and letting someone else run the Area 16 event.

"Probably in each of those first 10 years or so, I said it was going to my last year," Harris added. "It is interesting that I have gone 10 years after that."

Here's to many more years, John Harris.

And as the proud father of that Special Olympian named Clay, words can't ever fully relate just how his parents feel about you and what you mean to so many Special Olympians and their families.

Indeed, you are Special.

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