ARLINGTON -- Erin McKee was resting up for a soccer match Friday on a grassy area outside the University of Texas at Arlington's Maverick Stadium.
The Martin High School junior was one of more than 3,000 athletes statewide signed up to compete in the Special Olympics Summer Games this weekend.
Does she expect to win? "We're planning on it," she said.
On a bright, cloudless day, pop-up shade canopies pushed together served as rest areas for teams from as close by as the Arlington school district and as far away as El Paso. Athletes and supporters walked the stadium and nearby venues clad in T-shirts awash in their team colors.
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Events this weekend include track and field, basketball, cycling, gymnastics, soccer and tennis. Almost as many volunteers are expected to pitch in as there are athletes competing, said Judy Yoshimaru, director of volunteer services for Special Olympics Texas.
"We have people off the street, high school athletic groups and companies out in force," she said. "It's just a huge variety of people."
A highlight Friday morning was the final leg of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. Officers from agencies across the state took part. Among them was David Haywood of the Midland Police Department.
He got involved eight years ago and has been back ever since.
"You realize how lucky you are," he said. "It really touches you."
Besides competition, other activities are available for the athletes. A carnival-style village where they can relax and interact with others offers karaoke, games and souvenirs.
And upstairs in the Maverick Activities Center, athletes can get free vision and hearing screenings. Prescription glasses are provided for free to those who need them. About 400 athletes were expected to be screened over two days.
Parents and organizers say it's a valuable service for the mentally disabled, a group that often finds it difficult to obtain healthcare. Many providers "don't know how to treat people with disabilities," said Ann Thompson of The Woodlands, near Houston, who was waiting in line with her daughter, cyclist Kathy Thompson. "They get the [medical problem] mixed up with the disability."
Ralph Herring, clinical associate professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry, is among those working to change that by training other eye-care professionals on how to run their own screenings.
"We're trying to show them that this is a population you can work with," he said. "These are people you shouldn't be intimidated by. If you can learn a few things, you can accommodate a great deal of them in your practice."
Kathy Thompson, 37, was on her third trip to the Texas Summer Games and is headed to Greece next month for the World Summer Games.
The state competition has "really helped me improve," she said. "It's helped me in socializing and making friends."
Patrick M. Walker,