And they’re off at the Special Olympics School Day Games
Big smiles abounded at the 15th annual Special Olympics School Day Games at Dartmouth High School on Friday.
More than 400 athletes from over 14 schools in the region competed in such events as the long jump, 25 meter hurdles, javelin, and shot put as well as the less traditional fun relay and parachute.
The day kicked off with an opening ceremony that packed the school gymnasium with parents, coaches, teachers, high school volunteers, athletes and friends.
Athletes and their coaches held a parade with school banners — and then, with much fanfare, the torch arrived, held aloft by Dartmouth High grad Jeremy Furtado.
Furtado said that he carries the torch in to start the games every year.
He’s been coming to the event for all 15 years of its existence, and said he likes “everything” about it — especially racing.
Jeremy’s sister Stephanie came to watch her brother take part in the games.
“It’s actually fun. It’s not like they’re really competing against each other, because they all help each other out,” she said.
The torch ceremony also included an honor guard of local and state police from all over Massachusetts called the Guardians of the Flame.
Also in attendance was Blades the Bruins mascot — fresh from the team’s victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
Kids took photos with Blades, and ate pizza and snacks to recoup their energy after all of the excitement.
According to Rachel Dill, Director of Development and Partnerships at Special Olympics Massachusetts, this year alone they raised $35,482 from a single-day fundraiser.
“It’s amazing. I love coming here,” she said. “It’s great to see all the schools and the communities come together, and all the athletes have a blast.”
Dartmouth High Special Education teacher John Breault, who helped organize the event, said that it was the biggest yet.
“It’s really just a big community event,” he commented. “We have a huge group of student volunteers that help us out.”
According to Breault, with all of the helping hands involved, the games only take them a couple of months to plan.
“We’ve done it for fifteen years, so at this point a lot of it’s kind of like clockwork,” he said with a grin before hurrying to help with the activities.
Outside, middle school, high school, and adult athletes competed in field games like shot put and relays.
Dartmouth High sophomore Donald Turner has been coming to the games for four years.
He said that he likes to run track. “It’s fun to go against other people. It’s one of my favorite things to do, practicing to get better and faster.”
But on the day he enjoyed the long jump, shot put, and javelin field events.
Turner’s teammate, junior Travis Tetrault, has been coming to the games since elementary school.
“Mostly my favorite part is just hanging out with friends, hanging out with coaches...mostly trying to have fun,” he said. “Sometimes win.”
“We just like to be supportive. We’re having very much fun,” he added.
Tenth grader Jonathan Correia said that his favorite part of the day is meeting people.
“[I like] to meet new friends and talk to all the people,” he said, adding that his favorite event is javelin.
“You can see how far you can throw,” he said with a smile.
Meanwhile inside the gym, Quinn Elementary Teaching Assistant Rose Amaral was herding her kids — all in teal t-shirts — from the parachute to the softball throwing.
She commented, “It’s going great. This is the best day of the school year. Absolutely the best day of the school year.”
“[The kids] are enjoying it immensely,” she added. “They all have smiles on their faces.”
Special education teacher at Quinn Stephanie Melo agreed.
“It’s awesome,” she said, adding with a laugh, “the kids are having a ball, and so are the adults.”