Special Olympics games, bocce tourney thrive again

By GREGORY HOLOWATYJ

For physical education teacher Tim Laughlin, being able to help put together the Special Olympics Allegheny County Summer Games at Baldwin High School is one of the highlights of each school year.

“I feel a satisfaction being able to see all these students learn about themselves and grow,” Laughlin said. “It gives them a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment because it lets them help and experience something that otherwise they would not have.”

The Allegheny County Special Olympics games have been held at Baldwin since 1988, and each year the event has grown. Retired physical education teacher Joe Murray was one of the ones that helped bring it to Baldwin.

Athletes participate in the events at Baldwin Stadium, and if they do well enough they can move on to states and then nationals. The emphasis at the games, though, is on everyone’s personal achievements in participating and doing the best they can.

“Special Olympics has helped me improve myself at competing and I enjoyed participating in the long jump event and winning first place,” said Danny Hall, a Baldwin student and Special Olympics athlete.

The athletes are cheered by hundreds of family members and residents from surrounding communities. Athletes came from more than 15  programs and some schools that work with special needs students in the Western Pennsylvania area. More than 25 students from Baldwin participated.

The athletes competed in a variety of race events, as well as track and field events.

“I am very proud of all who were involved with Special Olympics. It was a great day and I am happy I got to help run this event,” Laughlin said.

In addition to students from the Special Olympics Club,  several sports teams and cheerleaders, members of the Red Cross Club and National Honor Society also helped with the event, along with teachers and other students who volunteered.

The event is good not only for the athletes, but also for the school and the community, Laughlin said.

“I know this is good for the school as it helps show what we here at Baldwin offer students,” Laughlin said. “It also helps attract business and people who would want to come and live in a community like this.”

The evening before the games, the traditional bocce tournament featuring students and teachers kicked off the event. More than 60 teams competed.