Two locals made their mark at the bi-annual Special Olympics last weekend in New Jersey.
Christopher McPherson, a Hilton Head Island High School student, and Eric Perez, who will be attending Bluffton High School in the fall, each earned gold medals for tennis at the event. In doubles play, they teamed up to win a bronze medal.
McPherson and Perez were two of more than 3,000 athletes competing at this years games, which feature events for physically- or intellectually-challenged young athletes in 16 different sports.
According to Special Olympics Area 8 tennis program founder Myron Meister, athletes are split into divisions according to age and skill level. Meister, who has helped coach both McPherson and Perez for the last few years, said he is very proud of his students' accomplishments.
"It is rewarding every time when you see them develop," Meister said. "Sometimes it can take them a couple years of practice just to serve the ball. The enjoyment they get out of it, it's like a home run to them."
According to Special Olympics Area 8 co-director Cherie Taylor, there were a total of seven athletes and two coaches from Beaufort County at the games.
Larry Hooper of Lady's Island, Micheal Boyne of Beaufort, Michelle Myers of Hilton Head Island and Sheree Goethe of Bluffton competed in bocce. Hilton Head Island's Kathy Cramer was their coach. Beaufort's Andy Jones competed in bowling, while Taylor was the assistant tennis coach.
Meister said the Special Olympics is about more than just athletics. The event also allows participants the chance to have experiences like taking a boat ride or seeing a city like Manhattan.
"A lot of things we take for granted," Meister said. "There's a lot more that makes it a special event for them."