Special Olympics showcases talent


Natalie Zgurich

Summer Games bring smiles: Students walk across the gym (above) at opening ceremonies. The games featured several hundred athletes.

Purbalite Staff

Anyone who plays a sport knows the joy of competing and winning, and that goes for Special Olympics athletes as well.

During the Special Olympics Summer Games at the high school on May 13, freshman Cassie Pantelis got to see that enthusiasm firsthand. Pantelis worked with a middle school Special Olympics athlete, escorting him to his events throughout the day.

“Seeing how happy he got after he won his walking event was the best part of the day for me,” Pantelis said.

Those emotions are what the Summer Games are all about, organizers said.

“The overall goal for Special Olympics is to give an opportunity for student athletes around the county to come and compete in track and field events,” Special Olympics Club co-sponsor Eric Jankoski said. “They had been practicing for the past few weeks to get ready. It offers them an opportunity to showcase what they have done and to work on personal goals, like being able to overcome certain obstacles.”

This was the 45th year that Baldwin has hosted the event. Several hundred athletes, and an equal number of volunteers, participated this year, Jankoski said.

“A ton of the support is from Baldwin, with our Special Olympics Club and Partners PE classes,” he said.

Tim Laughlin, the club’s other co-sponsor, agreed.

“We had a lot of club members who were seasoned and they knew what they were doing. We would ask for something and our members would go get it,” Laughlin said.

Senior Claire Plunkett, who serves on the Special Olympics Club’s executive board, said that kind of support makes Baldwin special.

“The coolest part about the whole event is just the fact that it is our high school that holds it, which is impressive considering it’s a thing colleges usually hold,” Plunkett said. “It’s such a happy day, filled with so much smiling and joy.”

Laughlin said the athletes’ performances bring about those great feelings.

“We had two athletes in elementary school who came this year for their first time and they got through with no problems and that was awesome to see,” Laughlin said.

Rain had been predicted for sometime during the day, but the weather held out. Still, the threat of bad weather kept some athletes away, Laughlin said.

“Mother nature helped us out, but it did scare about one-fourth of our athletes away,” he said.

Now that the Summer Games are done, it’s time to start planning again, Jankoski said.

“Every year after the event is over we start planning for the next year,” he said. “It’s a massive undertaking with a lot of amazing volunteers that spend their time helping and planning.”

Staff Writers Adam Goldsboro, Brenna Green, Jenny Joyce, Jack O’Brien, Katie Savage, Cassie Snyder, Jaiman White and Jelena Winowich contributed to this report.