Special Olympics flag football teams score big

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Click on the picture above to view a photo gallery from the event.

Special Olympics flag football teams from across the region converged on the Panthers practice fields on May 18 for the second annual Carolina Panthers Special Olympics Flag Football Tournament. The tournament featured 130 athletes on 12 teams, as well as individual skills competitors.

The 5-on-5 co-ed format showcased Special Olympics flag football programs in North Carolina from Cleveland, Cumberland, Forsyth, Gaston, Haywood, Hoke, Mecklenburg and Union counties in addition to a squad representing Richland County (SC). Five teams were part of Project Unify, which combines middle and high school athletes with and without intellectual disabilities.

"The growth of the Special Olympics flag football program has been exciting to see," said Riley Fields, the Carolina Panthers director of community relations. "The energy and competition were in high gear from the very start of the day. The support of families and the enthusiasm they provided throughout the day was terrific."

In 2010, Carolina Panthers Charities awarded Special Olympics North Carolina and South Carolina each with grants in the amount of $73,778 to develop flag football in communities served by Special Olympics.

"It's meaningful to see the commitment that both parents, volunteers and athletes have for flag football," Fields said. "The experience the players have is rewarding for all."

Special Olympics North Carolina President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne said, "The Carolina Panthers were instrumental in putting on a first-rate competition for the flag football athletes. I want to congratulate all the athletes who competed and thank the volunteers who made the flag football expo a memorable event."

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