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March 12, 2013 | North America: Georgia

Red, The Big Red Dog and friends help athlete cross the finish line

By Wendy Bigham, Special Olympics Georgia

Two things encourage Donald Ray, 14, to cross the finish line at athletic events: a Clifford the Big Red Dog book or a volunteer wearing red at the finish line. It's easy to see why his friends look forward to cheering him on at practice.He is an inspiration. The athlete, of Cobb County, has become more social over the years because of Special Olympics and his family. He was born with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic disorder, but that doesn't stop him from accomplishing his goals on the field. "He is a real treat to have on the team and I hope to be his coach for many years to come. His family is a tremendous support. They're always the first to volunteer to help with anything. Each week at practice his parents and brother are there cheering him on to the finish line and it's great to see," said Coach Tony Hranek. Hranek's daughter and SOGA staffer said, "To watch him go from not communicating at all to now giving hugs and high fives (even if you're not wearing red) makes you stand back and realize 'Wow! Special Olympics really does change lives.'" So come out to Summer Games at Emory and cheer on Donald Ray. You can't miss him -- he'll be the athlete crossing the finish line with a Clifford book in his hand.

About Wendy Bigham, Special Olympics Georgia: Wendy Bigham is the senior public relations manager of Special Olympics Georgia.

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