In 11th year, Weymouth Special Olympics even more inclusive
The Patriot Ledger - 4/25/2019
April 25-- Apr. 25--WEYMOUTH -- The field at Weymouth High School traded in its usual varsity soccer games and pep rallies on Thursday for 7-year-olds practicing the long jump, high school students attempting the hurdles and tiny javelin throwers trying their hand at the ancient sport.
The 11th Weymouth Special Olympics, an annual town event celebrating the abilities of students with disabilities, brought more than 100 special education students from the district's 11 schools together for displays of athleticism and unbridled joy. The students laughed with each other, danced as if no one was watching and tried sports they'd only ever seen on television.
"It brings all the kids together," said Christy Hay, volunteer coordinator and high school basketball coach. "They benefit from the socializing and being able to compete in front of an audience is a thrill for them."
For the first time, the district's therapeutic learning students were invited to the event. Traditionally it has only been open to special education students with mental or physical disabilities, but students with social and emotional disorders also took part on Thursday.
"I played a bunch of games. My favorite was the long jump," 8-year-old Evelyn Peters said. "I loved it. I want to do more races."
Jenny Healy, a therapeutic learning teacher at the Pingree school, said the Weymouth Special Olympics is almost tailor-made for her students.
"They were through the moon, just so excited to be included today," she said. "A lot of the kids in the program require frequent movement breaks already, so the outside, being able to move, engaging with their peers, the music, the fun -- they love it."
Parents and family friends crowded the sidelines to watch the children's events, including Lon Carvello, who waived a "Go Julian" sign for his grandson Julian, a student at the Nash school. This was the second year the 7-year-old competed.
"It makes him feel important, and it's just so cute," Lyn Cohen, Julian's grandmother said.
"He'll talk about it for weeks," Carvello added.
The event is staffed by Weymouth teachers and administrators, as well as 50 student volunteers from the high school and Chapman Middle School who also donate their time to help everything run smoothly. This was the second year sophomore Mary Cipullo volunteered, and said she was inspired to do so after sharing a gym class with a few special education students.
"It's a good change of scenery for everyone and it's such a special day," she said. "It really is their day -- it's all about them."
Officers from the Weymouth Police Department attended as honorary grand marshals of the event.
Reach Mary Whitfill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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