Oklahoma Special Olympics celebrates 46th Summer Games in Stillwater 

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Blake Reynolds is a crowd pleaser, always smiling and looking for his next hug.

“He’s very outgoing. He flirts with all the girls,” said Blake’s mother, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Jennifer Fisher. “He’s pretty much always in a good mood and puts everybody in a good mood.”

Blake, 19, has Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a rare genetic developmental disorder that affects 1 in 10,000 to 30,000 newborns and is characterized by slow growth, intellectual disability and skeletal abnormalities in the arms and hands. Blake’s case is considered mild. He is developmentally delayed, yet he graduated from Harrah High School last year and “pretty much lives a normal life,” Fisher said.

Blake and his family have been involved with Special Olympics since he was 7 years old, and they will be among the thousands of participants at the 46th Annual Summer Games May 13-15 in Stillwater. The games are hosted by Oklahoma State University.

Throughout the year, Blake participates in bowling, bocce and swimming. He will compete in bocce at this year’s Summer Games, Fisher said.

“If you’re ever down and depressed and you want to be rejuvenated, all you need to do is go to the Summer Games and be around a Special Olympic athlete,” she said.

This year, more than 5,000 athletes and 1,700 volunteer coaches are expected to take part, making it the state’s largest Summer Games ever, said Donna Ham, marketing and communications director for Special Olympics Oklahoma.

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Thousands of volunteers help organize and run the massive operation, doing everything from staging events and serving food to awarding medals and greeting athletes as they cross the finish line. Special Olympics Oklahoma relies on individual and corporate donors to assist with the Summer Games and other year-round events. The state is divided into 14 areas, and virtually every community in the state supports athletes who compete at local and state levels, Ham said.

Law enforcement plays a big part. Fisher’s husband, retired state trooper Lt. Jim Fisher, is executive director of the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Torch Run, a grassroots organization started in 1986 that is the Special Olympics Oklahoma’s largest fundraising sponsor, raising more than $460,000 in 2014. More than 50 agencies carry the torch on a statewide run that culminates in the lighting of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope at the opening ceremonies. The athletes enjoy the officers cheering them on, said Jim, who works on Gov. Mary Fallin’s security detail.

“These days, where the police are getting such bad reps and horrible things are happening, it’s a good sight,” Jennifer said.

Blake’s family participates in other fundraisers as well, such as Craig Meyer Memorial Walk, an annual 125-mile trek from Chickasha to Stillwater prior to the Summer Games, and Super Plunge, in which they jump into freezing-cold water once an hour for 24 hours. Blake’s younger sister, Shelby, partners with him during competition.

“It’s just a little pain and discomfort out of a couple of days of my life,” said Jennifer. “Special Olympics athletes have to deal with physical limitations every day and overcome those, so why can’t we?”

Print headline: Torch bearer, Oklahoma Special Olympics will celebrate its 46th Summer Games in Stillwater.

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