NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - As the scores go up for each scored basket the cheers grew louder inside the Lucille Norton HPE complex at Stephen F. Austin University on Saturday.
More than 220 athletes showed off their skills on the hardwood floors competing in basketball for Special Olympics.
"I have a close friend. He's actually playing here today. His name is J.J. and he's one of my closest friends at Special Olympics," said Emalee Chappa, volunteer who presented awards to athletes.
Hundreds of people showed their support to the athletes competing. But it's the volunteers who devoted their time and dedication to bring this event to life.
"They're experiencing (basketball) the same way a normal person would and you don't have to talk to them differently," said Valeria Padierna, volunteer.
These volunteer have no ties to family members or relatives with special needs, yet they carve out their day just to experience the pure joy.
Will Jones has been donating his time since 2009. He says being at Special Olympics is a time to be with family.
"The love that my parents have shown me, we get to exemplify that love here. We get to coach them. It's just about their happiness, their smiles. It's unreal," Jones said.
More than 75 volunteers coached, ushered, tallied and cheered each athlete.
In the last 7 years, Jones said there's a huge growth in the whole tournament experience which now requires more volunteers.
"We've kind of all stepped up. My family and I, we're coaches for pretty much each team here." >
Although each dunked shot requires more cheers, often it's the small act of kindness to show these athletes they can score.
"Seeing their reactions when I give them a ribbon or a medal, it's just amazing. Their faces light up," Chappa said.
Several of the winners from the tournament will go onto play for the upcoming statewide competition Arlington.
Organizers for the Special Olympics are always looking for volunteers. Here is a link for more information.