Special Olympic athletes participate in the annual Special Olympic bowling competition in Rexburg. According to the Idaho Special Olympics’ website, the organization provides athletic competition for more than 2,500 athletes statewide and is run by more than 9,000 volunteers. AKITA LAGAZO | Scroll Photography

Cheers erted as the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics bowling competition began at Fat Cats in Rexburg Nov. 10.

“Are we ready to get started?” asked the emcee of the event.

The teams were announced one by one, and the crowd’s cheers grew louder.

Participants and fans traveled from Pocatello, Blackfoot, Yellowstone and other surrounding areas.

Some of the friends and families of the participants could be identified in the crowd of onlookers by their black “Team Hailey” and blue “Spare Me” team shirts.

According to Carey Walton, the acting area director of the event, there were between 80 and 90 volunteers who participated in the event that took place at Fat Cats and Teton Lanes.

To help the 198 athletes participating in the event, volunteers were stationed next to each bowling lane and throughout the bowling facilities.

Whether the athletes guttered their balls or knocked down pins, there were always smiles on their faces.

“We have participated in the Special Olympics for 20 years,” Walton said.  “My son is an athlete, and this event helps bring out the best sides of them: excitement, determination, enthusiasm. You really can’t beat that pure joy.”

Some of the volunteers said the experience was rewarding.

“So many people have sported me; I wanted to turn around and sport others,” said Megan Bell, a freshman studying early childhood special education. “So many of these athletes have been counting down to this day for months. Looking outward, rather than inward, helps me so much. These kids are such a great example of love.”

Fat Cats has hosted the event for four years.

“This is pretty big for them,” said Art Morales, the Rexburg Fat Cats’ general manager. “People are coming in weeks before to practice.”