Elementary athletes compete in GECDSB Special Olympics

Filed under: Headline,In Our Community,Sports |

EPS-opening-ceremoniesby Adam Gault

An estimated 650 elementary school students from around Essex County gathered at Sandwich Secondary School in LaSalle last Friday to compete in the annual Greater Essex County District School Board Special Olympics.

Organizers boasted about a record-setting number of participants, staff, and volunteers. The event featured a full day of friendly competition, social activities, and a dance in the high school gymnasium.

Students of Essex Public School displayed their spirit in full force, proudly representing their school in matching bright orange shirts. They marched in the opening ceremonies parade before getting ready to run, jump, and throw in the day’s events.

Shawna Goulet, a special education teacher with Essex Public School, spoke about the positive impact Special Olympics has on its participants and their families.

“It makes them a part of the community, and it’s a rewarding day for parents,” Goulet explained. “It’s important we integrate them with regular track and field.”

As the opening ceremonies came to a close, local dignitaries offered words of encouragement and positivity that highlighted the student athletes who are at the heart of the organization.

Tracey Ramsey, Member of Parliament for Essex, said Special Olympics is a great opportunity to have fun with friends, as well as a great platform for making new ones.

Ken Antaya, Mayor of LaSalle, described the pride he felt in the community in being able to host such an inspiring event, and that this day was all about the students getting an opportunity to showcase their athletic abilities.

The Canadian chapter of the Special Olympics has its beginnings in the early 1960s in Toronto. The prominent belief at the time was that the disability itself prevented children from participating in sports and recreation. Dr. Frank Hayden, a sport scientist at the University of Toronto, studied the effects of regular exercise on children with intellectual disabilities and found that it could have a profoundly positive effect on their health and that they could acquire the skills necessary to participate in athletics.