STILLWATER — Running and jumping, throwing beanbags, shooting baskets and tossing bouncy balls on a parachute, Carter Sudberry couldn’t be stopped.
As he lined up again and again at each station to compete in yet another event at the Rising Stars Competition, Sudberry’s parents stood behind him in their bright pink “Team Carter” shirts with smiles plastered on their faces and tears in their eyes.
When Carter was born he was diagnosed with agenesis of the corpus callosum, a rare birth defect that means Carter was born without 90 percent of the center of his brain.
Doctors called him a vegetable when he was born, telling Tina and Blake Sudberry that Carter wouldn’t be able sit up, let alone walk, run and speak.
“He’s beat every odd they’ve thrown at him,” Tina Sudberry said. “It’s a pure joy seeing him out here. We are constantly amazed by him.”
Thousands of other athletes competed Thursday during the second day of the 2014 Special Olympics Oklahoma Summer Games. The competitions continue through Friday.
Nearly 2,000 children competed Thursday in the “Stars of the Future” competition, which is designed to give athletes younger than age 8 a chance to experience all the fun of the games through events such as soccer, hula hoop, bubble blowing and miniature golf.
The competitors gathered under a bright blue sky on the practice field of the Sherman E. Smith Training Center, just outside the walls of Boone Pickens Stadium. Conditions couldn’t have been better for some of the first-time Special Olympians.
“We are just absolutely blown away by all these events and the sense of community,” said Sarah Ingalls, of Yukon, who was bringing her son Cody for the first time. “You always hear what a wonderful event this truly is, but until you experience it firsthand and see the smiles on all these faces, you can’t truly understand how much it means to everyone.”
On the other side of the field, volunteer Kylie Payne, of Perkins, was chasing 7-year-old Ryder Walls as he whacked a golf ball from one side of the field to the other.
Keeping up with Walls looked like an event unto itself for Payne.
“He just wants to do everything,” she said as Walls smacked the golf ball again before running after it. “He should probably be a runner.”
Across town, the older Special Olympians strutted their stuff in the track and field competition at Stillwater High School, while others competed in the long throw.
While the Sudberrys say they can’t wait for Carter, 7, to compete for medals, they love the experiences he’s getting now and the camaraderie they are building with other parents.
Tina has dedicated herself to helping other parents in the southern part of the state who have children with special needs.
She has started Journeys: Serving Special Needs Families of Southern Oklahoma, based on her experiences with Special Olympics.
“You see all the kids here and the parents here, they totally get it,” she said. “The way you get complete strangers cheering for your child or crying for your child is really something special because we all know what each other have been through.”