Special Olympics return to Summit

Handing him a ball, senior Alexis Lieberman pointsher buddy in the direction of the basket. The Special Olympics took place in the gym on March 15.
Handing him a ball, senior Alexis Lieberman pointsher buddy in the direction of the basket. The Special Olympics took place in the gym on March 15.
Raghed Hadi

On March 15, Summit hosted the Special Olympics basketball games where students volunteered to help the athletes and organize the event.

According to the Special Olympics website, the organization’s 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.” Schools can host competitions for different sports, with Summit hosting a basketball event annually. Athletes from the St. Louis area were invited to play basketball games or take part in other activities such as face painting or coloring throughout the day. CTE teacher Jon Merz’s Sports Management class helped to organize the event, and he said that the process was mainly managing behind the scenes tasks to help the games takes place.

While working at Victory Village, sophomore Cheyenne McCorkhill talks to one of the athletes as she plays with slime. Many school groups, such as SPACE Cadets, participated in Special Olympics. (Raghed Hadi)

“[Special Olympics] plans out the day. They basically tell us what goes on and then we make sure that the event runs [smoothly]. We have to prep the signs, we have to prep the t-shirts, and then also assignments for buddies and athletes. There’s a lot of [instructions] that we have through Special Olympics, but there are some other things we have to do on the back end to make the event happen,” Merz said.

Sports Management was just one group that helped orchestrate the games: AMPED made the t-shirts, SPACE Cadets set up Victory Village with games and prizes, basketball players refereed games, and students from across the school volunteered as buddies to partner with athletes throughout the day. In total, principal Dr. Emily McCown said that a large percentage of the student body volunteered at the event.

“I know we had about 150 buddies, and then we probably had at least another 30 working the village, so I would say we had around 200 [volunteers],” McCown said.

As a buddy, senior Ellie Morris said that she enjoyed playing games with her athlete while knowing that she was making a difference.

Using a stencil, freshman Madison Hallsten draws a pawprint on the cheek of an athlete. Outside of the games, athletes were able to participate in other activites such as face painting.(Raghed Hadi)

“You show them around and help them if they need help with their game, and you can take them around the victory village and win prizes. You get to just be a part of something bigger and experience what it’s like for other people,” Morris said.

By volunteering, McCown said students get the opportunity to help others and learn about new experiences in a way that isn’t usually available to them.

“I think it gives kids a chance to interact with other kids in a different capacity than they normally would in the classroom. It gives them a chance to be a cheerleader for another athlete. I think it just gives them some kind of access to view how someone else might go about different athletic events that have different skills,” McCown said.

Agreeing with McCown, Merz said that the Special Olympics serves as a valuable tool for promoting compassion and is an important tradition to continue.

“It’s giving back to somebody else and wanting to help somebody else– that’s really what it comes down to. Special Olympics is a big thing that we need to continue to establish and continue the lineage of having here, because it’s something other than it goes beyond the student,” Merz said.

Last year, the school hosted their first Special Olympics since the pandemic. Morris said that helping with that event is what inspired her to volunteer again.

“I volunteered last year and I enjoyed it a lot. It was just really fun to show my buddy around and watch them get super excited to do something so fun,” Morris said.

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