TERRE HATE, Ind. (WTHI) - The Flame of Hope is burning in Terre Haute as the 2018 Special Olympics Summer Games are officially underway.
The wave of high-fives seemed endless as athletes entered the Hulman Center Friday night. The high-five line is a tradition that sparks excitement in competitors. Officers and military personnel offered words of encouragement as hundreds of Hoosier athletes took in the moment.
19-year-old Chris Perdue of Osgood, Indiana is the 2017 Athlete of the Year. He is a winter sports athlete and has competed in the X-Games and World Olympics representing Team USA. While he was not competing in these games he says it's a time he enjoys.
"It's always a good night when we come here. You get to meet new people and they get to see their friends that they haven't seen in forever."
Perdue is honored alongside Zionsville Police Officer Josh Chapman. Chapman is the 2017 Officer of the Year. The pair had the unique honor of lighting the official Olympic cauldron. The flame signifies the start of the games.
Officer Chapman says, "Law enforcement throughout the world are known as the Guardians of the Flame for Special Olympics. Part of our responsibility is to keep that Flame of Hope alive and burning and spread awareness and teach people about Special Olympics and the amazing athletes that we serve."
Chapman says his time working with these athletes has changed his life.
"They have such a positive outlook on life and how they do things and it reminds me daily why I do the job I do."
He says he hopes everyone learns something from the games.
"People with intellectual disabilities are just like the rest of us. They might respond to something a little bit slower. They might take a little bit more processing time on other things but they're just like the rest of us. They like to compete in sports. They're athletic. They're passionate about what they do."
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