Over 450 students participates in Special Olympics

By Joel Charron

It was evident from all the smiles and laughter that special needs students from across the Greater Essex County District School Board were having a blast at the board’s version of Special Olympics.

On May 18 and 19, both elementary and secondary school students participated in a wide range of events at Sandwich Secondary School.

The two days of fun allowed students to showcase their skill, competitiveness and sportsmanship.

Steve Green soars through the air in the running long jump event. Green’s jump was good enough to grab him fourth place in running long jump.

“We had a vision a number of years ago to have a Special Olympics,” said chair of the Greater Essex County District School Board, Helga Bailey. “We are so thankful to the staff, volunteers and community partners.”

Roughly 450 athletes from 27 elementary school and 11 high schools converged in friendly competition over the two days. Bailey said the Special Olympics shows that the public board is inclusive and accessible.

“The kids are tremendously excited. It’s a venue for them to be able to succeed that their particular level,” said Bailey. “We’re trying to accommodate the needs of every child that is out there. It’s just an exciting day.”

The opening ceremonies featured the athletes being marched onto the field by bands from Marlborough Public School and Anderdon Public School.  She also added a dance was held at the end of each day.

“The smiles on their faces make it all worthwhile,” she said.

Essex MP Jeff Watson was invited by the board to attend the Special Olympics.

“It’s important to participate in the Special Olympics because of what it means to our community,” said Watson.

Watson said there is a “exceptional” level of athleticism shown at the Special Olympics, noting that the event brings to light “true sportsmanship and dignity” from the athlete, something that Watson says that is sometimes lacking in professional sports.

“These athletes are fierce competitors,” said Watson. “They all want to excel. They up lift the dignity of their fellow competitors. They really do show us it truly does matter how you play the game.”

Event chairperson Miriam Woodall said the board’s Special Olympics it “truly a community event” as it brought together athletes, student leaders from other school and local business. Woodall mentioned that the Pita Pit donated lunches each day and was very thankful from them and all their corporate sponsors.

General Amherst High School student, Daniel Matte, who helped run events as a part of Michael Balogh Leadership class called the happiness shown by the   athlete “contagious.”

“When you see them with a big smile, you can’t help but smile,” said Matte. “

General Amherst Athletic Director Jim MacDougall had roughly 25 students from his physical education class help train and encourage athletes from Western Secondary School in the weeks prior to the Special Olympics.

“You get a good feeling at the end of the day,” said Matte. “I’m here, making a difference and I want the athlete to enjoy today because it’s their day.”

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