Student body rallies support for Special Olympics


On April 18, students of all grades will be participating in a track and field event for Special Olympics at Waynesville High School.  According to the Special Olympics website, their  mission “is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”

District coordinator for the Special Olympics, Jessica Haberman, plays a big role in preparing the students for Special Olympics and making sure they feel welcome and honored.

“…We usually do a big parade through the hallways. The band plays, the cheerleaders get out. The cops have come in, do a chauffeur and they drive us through town with their sirens and everything. We just started doing banners for the kids, so downstairs, where all the seniors [are], now our senior athletes have banners,” said Haberman.

There are two events that students participate in for Special Olympics. One event in the spring, and the other in the spring. In the fall, they have a bowling event, while in the spring, they have a track and field event in which all grades are able to participate.

“With the track and field event, we actually have all the way from age eight to high school, and then they have adult too, so even after you graduate, if there’s an organization outside, usually they’ll do an adult one as well. So in the spring, we will take kids from all the elementaries, middle school, junior high and high school, and then we also take a partner or a buddy for each of them. It’s usually about 100 kids, just from our school district alone,” stated Haberman.

Junior Tyler Neyman, a returning participant in Special Olympics, has been able to encounter and speak with new participants.

“You get to talk to different people. You get to meet new people you haven’t met before,” said Neyman.

Special Olympics is competitive, but it is organized to uphold fair and inclusive play.

“When you’re competing at the event, you’re competing with like-athletes, so you’re not competing against someone who clearly is maybe more physically fit than you,” stated Haberman.

For Haberman, the event serves as a vision for expanding more united opportunities for the entire RHS student body.

“One thing that I wish we did do more of, it’s called unified sports. That is when we take the general education students, and they play alongside our students. So for bowling, they might be on the same team and they bowl together. Right now, when our unified partners help us in the spring, they’re more like buddies. We join them up with kids, and they just make sure they get to the right events at the right time, which is still a wonderful thing. But, it’s kind of fun to watch them play together and see the interaction with the kids,” said Haberman.

Special Olympics’ ultimate goal is to empower the athletes. Neyman believes in the power of participation and in amplifying the event. To him, every participant should leave with one feeling: “To feel like a champ.”