More than 3,600 athletes, coaches, chaperones, volunteers and Unified partners competed, shared and celebrated together at the Special Olympics Indiana 2024 Summer Games.

That group and another 1,000 fans and family members helped pack the Hulman Center to the rafters on Friday, June 7, as the Opening Ceremony kicked off three days of fun and excitement. In celebrating its 55th anniversary, 55 athletes from across the state joined local dignitaries onstage to welcome everyone to Terre Haute.

“What a night, and what a crowd,” event host Julie Henricks of WTWO-TV said. “All the hard work. All the dedication. All the sweat and sore muscles you have worked through these pas 12 months come to fruition this weekend as you challenge yourselves and compete in your events.”

The enthusiasm continued throughout Summer Games on the campuses of Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Athletes competed in seven sports – bocce, bowling, cycling, powerlifting swimming, track and field, volleyball – and took part in a wide variety of social, health and entertainment activities.

Olympic Town presented by Duke Energy drew thousands of visitors each day, offering games, prizes, food and more. Olympic Town also hosted the Saturday night Victory Dance as athletes and others cut loose their best moves.

A Saturday night comedy show with Craig Tornquist filled every seat in ISU’s DeDe Hall as his original songs, impressions and audience participation keep the room laughing.

The Healthy Athletes area in ISU’s College of Health and Human Services building provided more than 750 free screenings, allowing athletes to receive medical care in hearing, vision, dental and general wellness.

The theme of this year’s Summer Games was “A Journey to Your Heart.” Another major theme throughout the weekend focused on saying goodbye to longtime supporter and athlete parent Carl Erskine. The former Dodgers pitcher died in April, leaving behind a legacy of inclusion and hope to all the lives he touched.

Every athlete, coach and Unified partner in Terre Haute received a commemorative medal depicting 55 on one side to signify the anniversary and 17 – Erskin’s jersey number – on the other.

“Carl was so very important to Special Olympics, starting 55 years ago when we first got going in Indiana,” Special Olympics Indiana President and CEO Jeff Mohler said. “He talked to more people in Indiana about Special Olympics than anyone else. Tens of thousands of people heard from Carl about the importance of this organization to his son and to all the athletes.”

By Sunday afternoon, when the dorms finished clearing out and buses began leaving Terre Haute, there were hugs and well-wishes all around as another Summer Games ended. The Games may be over, but the memories will last forever.

Athletes already are talking about 2025 and how they are coming back to Terre Haute to compete and see their friends. Coaches, volunteers and others will be right there to support them and let the light of Special Olympics Indiana shine brightly again.

Click here to view photos from Summer Games.

Click here to watch a short video recap of the 2024 Summer Games.