On Tuesday, Dec. 5 the annual Special Olympics took place in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gym. The Special Olympics is an organization brought to schools to help disabled students participate in various athletic events. MSD was chosen to host the event for the sixth consecutive year.
The event was supposed to be held on the football field, but due to rain the location was moved to the gym. Setup began at 7:40 a.m., and the event began at 10 a.m. Volunteers and students organized food, games and places to sit for the crowd.
Also, a sensory station was a new idea which volunteers set up this year as a relaxing place for ESE athletes to go if they needed a break. The sensory station included bubble wrap, glitter, water bottles and various other items intended to soothe the participants.
After setting up, junior varsity and varsity football players lined up on both sides on the sidewalk, creating a pathway for the special athletes to walk through into the gym. As they walked into the gym, peer counseling and student government students cheered for them and helped them find their assigned place to sit.
The special needs students participated in athletic events and were each paired with a MSD football player who provided them with support and motivation throughout the entire competition. MSD students from peer counseling, student government and football served as buddies to the special needs students.
Olympic games such as shooting basket balls into garbage cans and throwing tennis balls were included for the participants to play.
“The football players had massive smiles as they helped the kids,” defense tackle Charlie Rothkopf said. “They loved it and were so encouraging and motivational.”
According to peer counseling teacher Lauren Rubinstein, many students, teachers and staff members absolutely loved the event.
“It is rewarding for the athletes, and this year there was even more interaction than previous years because each athlete was paired with a specific buddy,” Rubinstein said.
The Special Olympics is an event organized to make ESE students feel like a big part of their school.
“The event was amazing seeing kids with disabilities conquering challenging events,” junior Juli Campos said. “I feel that motivating the athletes showed them that they can accomplish anything if they try. Helping them play sports made my heart melt and seeing their smiles made me feel like I was doing something right and it made my day.”