Special Olympics makes its debut

Junior+Elaine+Yepez+faces+off+in+a+jump+ball+during+the+Unified+Spartans%27+first+ever+Special+Olympics+event.

Jennifer Beach

Junior Elaine Yepez faces off in a jump ball during the Unified Spartans’ first ever Special Olympics event.

Mike Damiano and Zach Thompson

 

For the first time, the Special Olympics have come to West Springfield. The Special Olympics is an athletic competition that involves the special needs students at WS, and was a fun opportunity for them to participate in such a school event. There were two main events in the event, Basketball and Track and Field. Along with the two primary sports, there was also a cheer team to motivate and encourage the athletes during the games.

WS’s team competing in the Special Olympics this year was known as the Unified Spartans, and it was a program including individual athletes with intellectual disabilities, and partners without intellectual disabilities to help them train to compete. The two groups teamed up in order to play their best and have fun during the events.

This year’s FanQuest event, which happened on February 22nd, was a showcase of the hard work of the Unified Spartans basketball team. The event featured a night of Spartan spirit, performances, and raffles alongside the athletic competitions. 

According to the official webpage, and those who worked to turn it into reality, the feel-good event aimed to heighten disability awareness and promote respect. The goal of the Special Olympics was to try and attract as many fans as possible, and create a fun experience for the teams competing. The Special Olympics was an opportunity for other students to volunteer and show their support for fellow students by helping setup the event and supporting the athletes during the main events.

Another important aspect of the Special Olympics was to heighten disability awareness and respect for the players in the game. Promoting recognition of students with disabilities is very important to members of the community, and the Special Olympics was the event to do just that. The sporting event gave special needs students an otherwise nonexistent opportunity to compete in athletics the same way general education students are able to.

“[The Special Olympics was] an outlet for special needs students to have the same athletic opportunity as general education students,” said senior Hanan Stiff.