Inspiration, support, and teamwork on display at Special Olympics day

By Douglas McCulloch | May 10, 2018
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch A Dartmouth athlete mid-throw during the javelin event.

While there were plenty of jumps, throws, and runs at a special track and field event at Dartmouth High, hugs, high-fives, and positive encouragement was more common.

It was all part of the Special Olympics School Day Games hosted at Dartmouth High. The 13th annual event included 325 athletes from Dartmouth, New Bedford, Fall River, Westport, Freetown, and the Southeastern Massachusetts Education Collaborative in Dartmouth for a day filled with track and field competitions and fun.

Dartmouth High teachers John Breault, Kristen Baptista, and Michael Cappello organized the day’s events, and were helped by about a dozen alumni and 100 student volunteers during the games.

“We’re a really strong team thanks to the support of our volunteers,” Breault said.

Throughout the day, elementary, middle, and high school students from across the region competed in traditional track and field games like dashes, shot put, javelin throws, and special events for younger kids.

Dartmouth’s Sarah Waltz had a successful round at the shot put with a ten-foot throw when all was said and done. Although new to shot put - it’s only her second year competing in the event - she’s been attending Special Olympics events for 10 years and is also on Dartmouth High’s unified track team.

“I just like the team spirit,” Waltz said of the event.

That was a common theme, as time and time again, regardless of team, spirit and unity was constantly on full display. Volunteers and athletes stationed at the end of each sprint high-fived athletes finishing their runs. If someone needed a helping hand after a particularly grueling run, plenty were available.

“To me it’s the best day of the year, absolutely the best,” said Superintendent Bonny Gifford as she snapped a few photos of teammates. “It’s so emotional to see the joy here, I can’t help but cry every year.”

Dartmouth’s Jeremy Furtado was looking forward to his runs, but more than that -- the opportunity to hang out with his friends and be around them.

Breault said the event would not have been possible without support from the high school and district administration, volunteers and alumni, and outside sponsors. Domino’s provided pizza lunches, and Bobs Sea and Ski delivered a $36,000 donation to the Special Olympics program.

New Bedford athletes take a selfie moments before the opening ceremonies begin. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Westport High School students wait to begin the opening ceremony procession. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Jeremy Furtado stops to chat with John Breault before the opening ceremonies. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Volunteers cheered on as athletes entered the opening ceremony. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Athletes took turns passing the torch before the torch run. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
An athlete has his picture taken with the torch. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
UMass Dartmouth police Capt. Tim Sheehan and Det. Ernie Belliveau walk with Heather Young after her run. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Christian Ruffen mid-air during his long jump. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Nathaniel Dias throws during the shot put with help from Deserie Damaso. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Sarah Waltz during the shot put. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Elementary students from Southeastern Massachusetts Education Collaborative participate in one of the events. (Photo by: Douglas MCCulloch)
Quinn Elementary student Jensen Andino competes in elementary events. (Photo by: Douglas MCCulloch)
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