WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Public Schools will hold its First Annual Special Olympics on Thursday, April 27, from 9am to 1pm, on Wilmington High School’s football field and athletic complex.
Students from Wilmington have been competing in the Special Olympics held in Lawrence for the past several years, but the school district recently decided to host its own event with the hope of growing participation from its own students.
“We were limited to bringing only our high school and middle school students to Lawrence,” explains WHS Special Education Teacher Diana Hill. “We thought it would be really great to involve our elementary students as well. The only way to incorporate them into the games was to hold our own Special Olympics right here in Wilmington.”
Approximately 100 students are expected to compete — 50 students with intellectual disabilities and 50 peer students who will assist their partner.
“Each student athlete will pick a partner to participate with them in the events of game day,” says Interim Director of Student Support Service Jen Mahon. “For grades 6-12, it’s an intense competition with a peer buddy to support them through the day. They’ll participate in 6 weeks of training… For grades K-5, they will follow a rotational model of field day activities.”
Volunteers have been hard work planning for a successful event, which will follow the Special Olympics’s uniform and inclusive format.
“All Middle School and High Students will have to pick one track event and one field event. Each will go home with two medals,” says Hill. “Elementary students will participate in similar events… but also a soccer skills station, a football skills station, a relay race, and an obstacle course. Each will receive a participation medal.”
The t-shirts worn by the student athletes will be designed by WHS Graphic Design students. More than 50 student submitted designs. Two were utlimately chosen — one for the front of the shirt and one for the back.
“There’s a lot of people working hard behind the scenes. It’s been an amazing experience so far,” says Mahon.
One of those volunteers is Becky McGrath of We’re One Wilmington, who is helping coordinate the efforts of having students create homemade signs to support each special athlete.
“We’re [also] working on getting busing so that students from all around Wilmington can watch these athletes compete,” says McGrath.
The day, according to Mahon, wouldn’t be possible without the event’s sponsors, which includes TJ Maxx, Pepsi, Lucci’s, and We’re One Wilmington, as well as several generous local families. As a result, the event is cost-free for each participant.
For more information, contact Mahon at email@example.com.
-reprinted with permission from the Wilmington Apple