It’s not about winning, it’s about fun


By Joel Charron

There were plenty of smiles and laughter to go around as the Greater Essex County District School Board presented their version of the Special Olympics.

Schools from all over the Greater Essex County District School Board flocked to Sandwich Secondary School last Wednesday and Thursday for the annual event.

Stephen Silvaggio, a member of the organizing committee and teacher at Harrow District High School, said 350 athletes from 30 elementary schools competed Wednesday while 190 secondary school athletes turned out on Wednesday.

That compared to 240 elementary athletes last year and 120 secondary athletes.

Chelsey Bull-Ilic of Western Secondary School heaves a baseball with all her might in the baseball toss competition last Thursday morning

Silvaggio also noted that volunteers have increased to 300 people this year compared to the 250 who helped out last year.

“The community has started to get involved,” he said.

Silvaggio believes this event “brings people together and helps tear down stereotypes many have.”   He also mentioned that people are beginning to say good things about the GECDSB’s Special Olympics, which is helping the event grow.

“We’re getting a great response from the students and staff members,” said Silvaggio. “They go back to their school and spread the word.”

Bands from Bellewood Public School in Windsor and Anderdon Public School took part in opening ceremonies, as did officers from the RCMP. LaSalle firefighters were also on hand as was Chochi’s Restaurant staff from Essex with free lunch.

Silvaggio noted that sponsors were a big part in putting together the two-day event that included The Rosati Group, Amherstburg Basketball Club, Southland Insurance, Valente Real Estate and St. Clair College.

Chelsey Bull-Ilic a Western Secondary School student said she was having a great time competing with all her friend.

“Today has been awesome,” said Bull-Ilic. “We are able to get out and enjoy the nice weather and hang out with everyone.”

Bull-Ilic said she does enjoy competing in the events and winning ribbons but that’s not what the Special Olympic is all about to her.

“It’s not about winning ribbon, although they are nice to get,” she said. “I just want to have fun and make sure everyone is having as much fun as me.”

Greg Scott, whose leadership class of 28 students from General Amherst High School, said the two days were a “great opportunity” for both the students and himself. He noted it was another chance for his students to show their leadership skills.

“The kids are really enjoying this experience,” said Scott. “You can’t help but laugh and smile while for here for the day. When the day is done you leave with a really good feeling that you were involved in a really good event.”

Scott praised Silvaggio and the organizing committee for their efforts.

“This is a classy, well organized event,” stated Scott.

Michael Popel, one of Scott’s students said it was a fun event to be a part of.

“It’s been great helping out these kids,” said Popel. “It’s fun seeing the smiles on the face and how much fun they have.”

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