RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Tonight, the opening ceremony for the Virginia Special Olympics 2022 Summer Games takes place at 7:45 p.m. at The University of Richmond’s Robins Stadium.

Outside of the Robins Center tonight, D.J. Straw will be providing music for the athlete dance. At the same time, volunteers and athletes can enjoy games such as bingo, yard games or even a movie inside the facility.

The event kicked off today with the track and field event for the first time in two years due to the pandemic. Athletes like Russell Turner have been competing in The Special Olympics their whole life. This will be Turner’s 30th year participating, and he has since become a global ambassador for Special Olympics Virginia.

“Special Olympics has been a big part of my life; I have been doing it since high school,” Turner said. “Special Olympics is a big family. You meet different people from different states. We have formed a big family and a bond with each other.”

With over 1,000 athletes participating in the Summer Games this weekend, the president of Special Olympics Virginia, Rick Jeffery, noted there are resources available in the Robins Center for their athletes. Resources such as dental, optometry, audiology examinations, and a fitness assessment.

“We want our athletes to be good on the playing field and feel good when they’re out in the community,” Jeffery said.

Special Olympics 2022 Summer Games

Jeffery reiterated that while events are occurring this weekend, the Special Olympics is meant to be an experience for the athletes, volunteers, and spectators.

“Sports teaches you leadership, communication, cooperation, and shared goals. That is what we want. We want our athletes to be great on the playing field…but more importantly, we want them to succeed off the playing field,” Jeffery said.

Community members can still volunteer for the Special Olympics 2022 Summer Games experience tomorrow starting at 9 a.m.