Athletes extraordinaire

Let the games begin! More than 310 students from across northern Chautauqua County participated in the 26th annual Special Olympics held at SUNY Fredonia. Students from Dunkirk, Fredonia, Brocton, Pine Valley, Cassadaga, Silver Creek, BOCES, Aspire and The Resource Center participated in a series of events.

Athletes started the day-long events with an opening ceremony and a parade of athletes. Students then participated in wheelchair, adapted and walking races, a 50m, 100m, 200m and a 4 x 100m relay runs, softball throw, running and standing long jump, tennis ball throw and javelin throw.

More than 80 volunteers came together to make the event a success. Students from Forestville, Dunkirk and Fredonia were among the volunteers. Lucinda Simpson has been volunteering for Special Olympics for 30 years.

She said she has started volunteering for the event and has done the event with her brother and son. She said she volunteers because of her family, who were handicapped. Bryan Gorman has been volunteering for seven years at Special Olympics. He said he volunteers to see the student’s expression in a non-competitive setting.

“(I volunteer) to see the smile on the kids’ faces,” he said.

To kick off the opening ceremonies, members from local law enforcement agencies, assisted by members of Dunkirk High School, ran the torch from Dunkirk High School to SUNY Fredonia. During the opening ceremony, Chris Waddy sang the National Anthem and students recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the Special Olympics oath, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” A prayer was given by Brent Thompson, pastor of Harvest Chapel.

Awards for the most improved athletes have been given since 1986 in memory of the late Katie Campbell, a special education teacher who was killed by a drunk driver. The awards were presented by Campbell’s sister Laurie Barney and mother, Jane Campbell.

Award recipients were Felicia Harrington, Kristina Hernandez, Yahir Cartegena, Tristan Tarbell, Alex McIntosh, Benji Newton, Daina Snow, Jacquire Sipp, Zander Sprague, Victoria Tarbell, Aiden Gierlinger, Makayla Apthorp, Sam Buck, Jordan Corkwell, Austin Duliba, Tianna McIntosh, Seth Kachelmeyer, Bethani Yancey, Jamin Brown, Frankie Blum, Jack Harnell, Eli Djziomba, Matthew Huch, Christina Cobready, Trisha Paul, David Smith, Samuel Gonzalez, Nicholas Coughlan, Casey Caron, Dalton Wolcott, Andrew Robinson and Chance West.

Event co-coordinator Maureen Bialaszewski said while the events had to be moved to the Steele Hall Fieldhouse and surrounding areas due to construction, the event was a success; this year the most children ever attended. By having the event inside, the events that were outside had more of a community-event feeling.

“The college is wonderful with accommodations. Anything we needed (they helped),” Bialaszewski said.

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