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Soccer and Safety: The Capital Region Special Olympics' Memorial Event

Special Olympics Florida-Leon County's annual Mariah Harrison Memorial drew 150 participants from Taylor, Wakulla, Jefferson, Gadsden, Leon and Jackson Counties.
Special Olympics Florida-Leon County
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The Capital Region's Special Olympics teams joined forces with the Buckle Up For Safety campaign for an annual tournament. The event brings exposure to athletes and raises awareness for driver safety.

Overcast skies and muddy conditions didn’t deter or dampen the spirits of athletes like Justin Thompson, who just came out to have fun with the other teams.

“I play hard, whether I win or lose," he said with pride. He and his team to were returning from a game to get a drink.

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Playing hard means keeping fit, and as the Special Olympics’ Nancy Sawyer says, this year they’re able to provide athletes with free health screenings, courtesy of Florida A&M University.But the event wasn’t just about sports. It’s also an annual recognition of Mariah Harrison, a Special Olympics member who lost her life in a traffic accident. Leon Special Olympics Director Melba Jacobs elaborated.

“We memorialize this tournament in honor of her and in memory of her, and we have athletes from all over our area," said Jacobs. "Counties from Taylor, Wakulla, Leon, Gadsden, all come together for a day of fun.”

In order to raise awareness for the perils of unsafe driving, Florida Highway Patrol brought a rollover simulator.

At the flick of a switch, a dismantled truck rigged to a huge motor shook to life and tumbled, shaking the three weatherworn test dummies around until, one by one, they were tossed violently from the cab.

The next event for the Leon County Special Olympics is the “Area Games,” a big soccer match taking place on March 28th. Jacobs says they welcome anyone to volunteer, even if it’s just to cheer people on.

Matthew Seeger began his work in radio in 2012, during an internship he took with WUSF in Tampa. He went on to volunteer at 89.7 FM “The Voice” for several years as a news anchor and production assistant. He began working with the WFSU news team in January of 2015. In addition to reporting the news, Matt is a voice actor, having recorded and produced several creative audio pieces, as well as his own series for V89’s Vox Populi program called “Tales from Hell Creek,”-- a series of slice-of-life vignettes about dinosaurs.