National Special Olympics athletes

Three DeSoto County Special Olympians have qualified to compete in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, set for Seattle, Wash. in July. From left are Hernando Mayor Tom Ferguson, Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer, Daniel Arata, Jesse Wims, Dan Arata and Horn Lake Alderman John Jones Jr. The Arata twins are part of Unified Champions flag football team with students from Ole Miss. Wims has qualified to compete in powerlifting.

Bob Bakken|DTT

Three young men from DeSoto County recently learned they will be visiting the Pacific Northwest next July. 

It won’t all be just vacation time for Daniel and Dan Arata, and Jesse Wims, however, as they will be representing the state of Mississippi in the 2018 Special Olympics National Games, set for July 1-6 in Seattle, Wash.

They will be among more than 4,000 athletes taking part in the national event.

Sara Shea with Special Olympics Mississippi said the trio qualified for next year’s national competition through the Summer Games in Mississippi and through a draw.

“Jesse is going for powerlifting and the Arata twins are going for flag football,” Shea said. “The Unified flag football team is the first one that we have ever sent. They have college traditional students and Special Olympics athletes that play on the same team together in intramurals against each other. This team qualified to go to nationals this summer.”

Shea said by winning a gold medal in powerlifting, Wims’ name was placed in a draw to determine who would go to the nationals.

“If you get a gold medal in your sport at the state games, like Jesse, his name was put in a raffle draw and his name was drawn by athletes, so it’s fair all of the way through to get chosen each time the opportunity comes up,” Shea said.

The Arata twins earned their spot by being part of a flag football team that included students from Ole Miss, Shea said.

“All of the athletes got together and they did a draw for the partners, so there will be college students from Ole Miss that play alongside with them,” she noted.

All three have been active in Special Olympics the past several years.

DeSoto Region Area 16 Director for Special Olympics Dwayne Wims noted that DeSoto County is one of the more active areas for Special Olympics in Mississippi.

“We are one of the biggest areas to participate in Special Olympics,” Wims said. “It’s very important because for those kids, this is what it is all about. If they make this trip and do good, the world games would be next for them.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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