What is special about the athletic field on the Orange Grove Center campus is twofold.
It was the football field for the Central High School Purple Pounders back in the late 50s. It was there that generations of Purple Pounders learned never to be forgotten life lessons.
The other special thing is that this Saturday, it will be the site where new life lessons and life-long memories are created at the first-ever Special Olympics Area 4 Football Tournament. The tournament will feature six Special Olympic Flag Football teams. The teams are divided into Traditional Teams- consisting of athletes with special needs and Unified Teams- consisting of Special Olympics athletes playing alongside “partners”- players without disabilities.
Anyone is welcome to attend this free event at Orange Grove Center at 615 Derby Street. Opening ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m., and the first game will follow. In addition to experiencing this special day, guests can enjoy live music along with free hotdogs and hamburgers.
Another special feature of the tournament will be the dedication of the field, to be known as the Smith-Summers Field. The name reflects the legacy of two local supporters of the Special Olympics. The dedication of Smith-Summers field will begin at noon.
The field will be named after two local honorees. The first is the late Lloyd Ray Smith who served as the director of Area 4 Special Olympics and the long-term director of sports and athletics at the Orange Grove Center. Mr. Ray was a champion for encouraging individuals with intellectual disabilities to step out of their comfort zone and get involved in Special Olympics.
The other honoree is Jerry Summers, a well-known, respected, and admired lawyer who, as the quarterback for Central High School in the mid-1950s, played football on the field that now carries his name. Mr. Summer has been a vital member of the board of Orange Grove and a major supporter of Special Olympics. His efforts and personal generosity helped Orange Grove to continue their participation in Special Olympics.