The athletes came from BOCES LoGuidice Center, Fredonia School District, Dunkirk School District, Cassadaga Valley Central School District, Brocton Central School District, Silver Creek Central School, Pine Valley Central School District, Aspire and the Resource Center to enjoy a day of friendly competition and sportsmanship at SUNY Fredonia.
Enthusiastic athletes and their supporters converged onto the campus. Because of construction on campus, this year the events were held in the field across from the University Stadium instead of at Steele Hall. The field’s track was used for the parade of athletes. As students marched to the song “One Moment in Time” they waved to family and friends, many of whom took pictures or held signs supporting athletes. The groups were organized according to school. Most school groups had t-shirts that matched in color. Most carried banners or flags.
After the parade, the opening ceremony took place.
Again this year, Jane Campbell and Laurie Barney presented the most improved athletes awards. These have been awarded since 1986 in memory of the late Katie Campbell, a special education teacher who was killed by a drunk driver. Katie was Jane Campbell’s daughter and Barney’s sister. The two worked to place the medals with a red, white, and blue ribbon around each honored athlete’s neck. They congratulated each athlete and then posed for pictures taken by proud parents and teachers.
Lisa Buczkowski’s class from Silver Creek Central School led the Pledge of Allegiance. Volunteers for the games led the Star Spangled Banner and asked everyone to sing with them. Mayor Stephen Keefe of Fredonia welcomed the athletes.
Fredonia students led the recitation of the Special Olympic Oath. “Let me win, but if I can’t win, let me be brave in the attempt,” they said. Next, athletes shouted the famous words, “Let the games begin.”
Events included: wheelchair races, adapted/assisted walk, boys 50 meter and 100 meter races, girls 50 and 100 meter races, 200 meter and 400 meter races, boys softball throw, girls softball throw, girls running long jump, boys running long jump, girls standing long jump, boys standing long jump, and javelin throw.
Maureen Bialaszewski, event coordinator said, “People from five to 99 can participate. Events are organized by ages and abilities and boys and girls.”
Excitement, encouragement and sportsmanship were evident throughout the day. At the softball throw, the students cheered for those from their school. When Robby Dillenburg of Cassadaga tossed the softball, a sign and a big cheer went up. Joe Santilli worked at the boys softball throw, encouraging the participants and keeping track of the distances tossed. Each student was given three tries.
At the races, Ian Ferguson won a blue ribbon for his effort. After Ian collected his ribbon, his dad Scott pinned it on his shirt.
“I am very proud of him,” said Scott.
Volunteers and staff worked to prepare a lunch of hot dogs and drink for the students. Water was available throughout the day, and the nurse on-site encouraged everyone to stay hydrated.
When athletes were not competing, they could enjoy the Olympic village. Clowns from BOCES created balloon art for the children. There were also games, including a ring toss and a large set of dice.
This was the 25th year the Special Olympics has been held in the northern end of the county. Bialaszewski, who has been a co-coordinator for the event for 25 years, was at a disadvantage this year because she had larnygitis. Larissa Aldrich, who worked with Bialaszewski through the years, was there as a regular volunteer since she had retired from her job with the city of Dunkirk.
Bialaszewski said help from many people makes the event possible.
“There are about 75 students and 15 adult workers beside the school staff. That’s why the event runs so well,” she added.
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