Hundreds gather to celebrate the 19th annual Special Olympics School Day Games

May 20, 2024

Over 450 athletes took to the Dartmouth Youth Soccer Association field Monday morning, May 20, for the 19th annual Special Olympics School Day Games. 

With the fields flooded Friday morning — this was the first time the games had to be postponed, according to Mike Cappello, the adaptive physical education teacher, who started the games 19 years ago.  

In addition, 2024 is the first year the games were combined for the younger and older athletes, making this their biggest event held yet, Cappello said. Athletes on the field Monday ranged from 52 years old to just 5 years old.

Cappello said having the field available this year allowed for them to host a larger group of athletes. 

“[The DYSA have] done a nice job getting the field ready for us, and have been super, super generous in letting us use this field and helping us in the process,” he said.

He highlighted the work of the volunteers from all the schools as well as the Physical Education Department.

“A lot of people have put a lot of time and effort into this, which is great,” he added. “It's the only way it really works, and because of that, it's been pretty successful.”

Cappello also emphasized the work of special education teacher Kocur Pierpont, who helped with organizing the signage and volunteers, as well as unified track Head Coach John Breault.

Breault, who has been helping Cappello organize and run the event from the last 18 years, said he was “glad” they were able to still hold the event this year despite the rain, adding how much he appreciates having the fields available to them this year as one of the main goals of the event is to “bring everybody together.”

“It's so nice to be back in one spot, which has not been the case for the last four or five years,” he said. “It honestly means the world because you can see how much fun these kids have, and that's why we do it. That's what it's all about.”

To initiate the start of the Olympic games, Jeremy Furtado, 33, had the honor of carrying the ceremonial torch.

Breault said Furtado graduated from Dartmouth when he turned 18, and without the ATLAS Program available at the time, he had to join a cooperative following graduation. 

While he believes it's great these programs are available, Breault said the Dartmouth special education program loses the “connection” they’ve built with these students. Encouraging the participation of students like Furtado “sort of keeps their roots in Dartmouth.”

Elisabella Francis, 10, and Hallie Fredette, 8, who were there for the second time as volunteers from DeMello Elementary School, said they just love to help.

Francis said she often wants to help her parents with chores around the house, but she is limited in what she can do. However, the Special Olympics has given her the opportunity to do more for others.

Travis Teves, 11, attends Quinn Elementary School said this was his first year volunteering for the Special Olympics after his aunt who works in the school system asked to join.

“It's really great to see all these people come out here and do all this stuff for everybody,” Teves said. “It's just really super cool.”

Alicia Marnia, 7, participated in Special Olympics for the second time this year, and said she likes the throwing part of the games the most. 

Marnia and Teves’ teacher Lindsey Vasides said she has been participating in the games with her students since the beginning and it’s always been their “favorite day.”

She highlighted how her students always get excited at the prospect of being the “helpers,” so she said she tries to choose those who haven’t had a chance to participate yet.

“Overall, it's such a good day and they just have so much fun and they feel so proud of themselves after so that's awesome,” Vasides added. “I get really teary eyed.”