RICHMOND, Ky. (FOX 56) – 2020 canceled it, 2021 limited it, now in 2022 the Special Olympics Kentucky Summer Games saw a turnout that resembled their pre-pandemic numbers.

Over 900 athletes and upwards of 800 volunteers took part in this year’s games on the Eastern Kentucky University campus this weekend. Being back to somewhat normal had some volunteers at a loss for words.

“It is incredible. There are just no words to describe it cause the athletes, they come out here with such energy,” said Edwin Shouse. “And to be able to see their smiling faces, see how they just interact with each other, cheering with each other, the sportsmanship. I mean you can’t put a price on the smile they bring out here.”

Shouse has volunteered for Special Olympics Kentucky events for 15 years.

He cited the friendships he has made during that time as the primary reason for why he keeps coming back.

“It’s the athletes,” Shouse said. “You create lifelong friendships with so many people around the state. You get to know athletes from western Kentucky, northern Kentucky. You know I am from Central Kentucky. You get to know the coaches, the other Special Olympics staff. It is just an amazing group to be around.”

This year’s games were the 27th time EKU hosted Special Olympics Kentucky’s Summer Games, so one can say it has kind of become a home away from home for the staff and the athletes.

“To be in Richmond, Kentucky,” said President and CEO of Special Olympics Kentucky Trish Mazzoni. “We call it our home away from home. This is our 27th year here on this campus and they embrace us. It is such a warm and welcoming community.”

If you want to volunteer for a future Special Olympics Kentucky whether it be later this year or for the 2023 Summer Games, you can find them at soky.org