Across the University of Delaware’s athletic complex on Friday and Saturday, athletes gathered to compete for the top honors in their sport. The occasion marked the 49th annual Special Olympics Delaware's Summer Games.

The games brought together nearly 650 athletes from across Delaware to compete in six sports: aquatics, bocce, powerlifting, softball, tennis, and track and field.

The event came together with the support of more than 170 coaches, 100 peers without disabilities who participate in the sports alongside the athletes and 1,000 volunteers.

One of those 650 Special Olympics athletes was Demetrius Shuford, who was competing for his first year in swimming. He participated last year in rollerskating.

“I swim pretty good,” he said. “Sometimes I stop because I get tired.”

He said he’s been swimming since he took lessons about 10 years ago, but, he added, “I never thought I’d swim in front of everybody.”

His mom, Lashun, noted that because Demetrius has autism, she never thought he would be able to participate in sports like this. She’s glad to see he can.

“It makes him happy,” she added.

Similarly, Beth and Patrick Parillon were looking forward to watching their daughter, Gabby, compete in swimming with the Sussex Riptide team.

“We love the support we get from the other teams,” Beth said.

Beth added that the opening ceremony was particularly special, describing watching runners bring in a torch to light the cauldron and witnessing a bagpipe performance.

“It’s beautiful,” Beth said.

The games, which the Parillons have been a part of for the past four years, provide a sense of unity for all who participate and volunteer, Patrick added.

An example of that was Scott Dillon, who has been competing in the Summer Games for about 15 years. He was joined by fellow Bank of America employee Suzanne McCraw, who was volunteering but also was there to support Dillon. The pair has worked together for about 20 years, she said.

She noted that Bank of America places an emphasis on volunteering, and she became involved with Special Olympics through that.

“He started in aquatics, and I followed him to tennis,” she said.

Dillon said he has enjoyed tennis for years.

“I’ve played a long time,” he said. “I started as a kid.”

McCraw added that she was looking forward to the opening ceremony.

“It always brings me to tears,” she said. “I’m proud of being part of a community that’s so involved. It’s awesome to see everyone come together.”

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