By: Zoe Day | Writer and News Editor
November 8, 2017
One of the best parts of high school is feeling included in something bigger than yourself. For students with special needs, there aren’t always as many opportunities for inclusion and participation in school events. The Special Olympics offer students with special needs the opportunity to have fun, develop skills, and build self-esteem at an incredible event. This year, San Clemente High School hosted the Special Olympics for basketball, and it was a win for everyone who participated!
At 8:00 a.m. on Monday, November 6th, staff, students, and volunteers gathered in the San Clemente gyms for the best day ever. Student volunteers from ASB, Link Crew, Best Buddies, AVID, cheer, and band arrived bright and early to set up the gyms for the basketball tournaments. By 9:00 a.m., both the main and auxiliary gyms were decked out with balloons, posters, and music, courtesy of DJ Noah. In addition to our own Tritons, Special Olympics players arrived from Dana Hills High School, Tesoro High School, Newhart Middle School, Niguel Hills Middle School, and Marco Forster Middle School. They walked into the gym to find masses of San Clemente students cheering them on and welcoming them to the campus.
While the students waited for the rest of the players to arrive, DJ Noah led a dance party on the court. Once the buses had all unloaded and everyone had found a seat in the main gym, the opening ceremonies began. DJ Noah thanked everyone for coming, and San Clemente’s own Madrigals team sang the National Anthem. With that, the games began!
Every athlete was paired with a student volunteer for the day. In mini tournaments, players competed for bronze, silver, and gold medals. Senior Hali Hammargren spent the morning cheering on her buddy, Kaylyn. Hali remarked, “It was really cool to see [the players’] excitement when they scored a basket, stole the ball, or just got on the court. It was also really fun watching them all play for their school in front of everyone.”
Indy Day, junior, volunteered for the first time at the Special Olympics and was paired with Noah Franklin, who is also a junior. The two have become close friends since they were matched in a Best Buddies pair this fall. “I had a ton of fun during the Special Olympics,” Indy commented. “It was awesome seeing the smiles on all the kids’ faces as they got a chance to compete with their friends from different schools. My favorite part was hanging out with my buddy, Noah, and seeing him sink threes!”
The Special Olympics were founded in 1968 when Eunice and Sargent Kennedy Shriver hosted the first “Camp Shriver” summer day camp in their backyard. Today, the Special Olympics are hosted at an international level. With the goal of creating an event specifically for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Special Olympics promote inclusion, participation, and leadership in schools. Throughout the year, school districts in the United States choose high school campuses to host the Special Olympic Games. Last year, the Capistrano Unified School District Special Olympics took place at Dana Hills High School.
Students like senior Raman Chomatil look forward to Special Olympics all year long. Although Raman was ecstatic to win a silver medal in his basketball tournament, he declared, “My favorite thing was hanging out with my buddy, Kendall.” In addition to playing games, one of the best parts of Special Olympics is the opportunity to make a new friend and share the experience together.
Junior Madison McFadden was matched in a Best Buddies pair with senior Lily Podgurski at the beginning of the school year. On Monday, they were able to bond at Special Olympics. Madison expressed her enthusiasm for the event, “It warms my heart that all of these kids are able to come together and be happy no matter what.”
All morning, Special Olympics players competed in tournaments of 5-on-5 matches. In the stands, parents and staff cheered on the basketball stars. The gym was filled with laughter, smiles, and cheering as the games progressed.
After the last whistle was blown, the visiting players made their way back to the buses, exhausted from a fun-filled day but still sporting huge smiles. If one thing is for sure, the volunteers and players will cherish the memories made at this year’s Special Olympics. All in all, this year’s Special Olympics were a slam dunking success!