Eleven young athletes, accompanied by their siblings and other family members, took part in the county's first ever Fun Day on Friday.
The Conway Human Development Center teamed up with the Special Olympics of Arkansas to host Faulkner County's first young athlete event at the Ed Jennings Gymnasium on CHDC's campus Friday. Faulkner County is a part of SOAR Area 17, which also encompasses Pope, Conway, Perry and Van Buren counties.
Those who participated in the inaugural event were all smiles as they made their way through a variety of educational play stations. Several officers from the Conway Police Department also attended the event to help out with the day's activities.
"We're having a fantastic time out here," CPD spokesman LaTresha Woodruff said Friday morning. "This is a great way to kick off a Friday. Our officers and these young athletes always have a good time together."
The event was aimed at providing educational play programs for children with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 2 and 7 years old. The variety of stations introduced the children to a variety of sports skills including running, kicking, catching and throwing.
Having law enforcement officers onsite was a great way to get participating children enthusiastic about the day's event, Area 17 Director Darla Jones said, noting many SOAR athletes form tight-knit bonds with local police.
Events such as the Friday Fun Day at CHDC help prepare children for further participation in SOAR.
"We are preparing children for the Special Olympics, which is for children 8 [years old] and up," Jones said. "These events help improve their cognitive and physical abilities."
Jones said soon, each county within Area 17, will have a Young Athletes program. The success these children find through the program along with SOAR is correlated, she said, with the help of the many volunteers that work to help the children shine.
"To make this happen, it takes all the help of our volunteers, the officers, family members and coaches to get the word out on these programs and help get others involved," she said. "This event is more inclusive, and that's what we're all about. These younger children are the future of the Special Olympics of Arkansas and also our future volunteers."
On Friday, many children ran, jumped and skipped along with local police as they formed new friendships and learned new skills.