“I had a dream so big and loud I jumped so high I touched the clouds... Woah, never gonna give it up. No, please don’t wake me now. This is gonna be the best day of my life,” from the song Best Day Of My Life by American Authors played over the loud speaker during the Special Track and Field Invitational at Schuylkill Valley High School on May 18.
“In February, the Special Olympics Berks County Track and Field School Track And Field Meet was cancelled at Kutztown University. At Schuylkill Valley School District, we did not want to let our student athletes and other student athletes from Berks County not to have their day to compete; so, we decided to put together our own meet,” said event co-coordinator Dana Carter, a teacher at Schuylkill Valley School District.
Originally scheduled for May 6, wet weather postponed the invitational several times until it could be held on May 18. The postponement meant several schools could not attend, reducing the number of estimated participants from 165 student athletes from eight school districts to about 70 athletes from Antietam, Brandywine Heights, Fleetwood, Oley Valley, BCIU - PAL program, and Schuylkill Valley school districts.
Carter said this was a day of fun and excitement for student-athletes, “their day to shine.” “Student athletes participated in running, throwing, jumping and wheel chair activities.”
Brian Lacey, director of pupil services and special education at Schuylkill Valley School District, said the Invitational is a spin off of Special Olympics. The Special Olympics did not sponsor the event.
“It’s a track and field invitational,” he said. “We tried to get as many of the school districts in the Berks County area to participate.”
Lacey said the purpose of the event is to allow students with disabilities the opportunity to participate in events and be successful.
“It’s not about winning, even though we hand out ribbons. It’s about participation and making the effort in the event,” said Lacey. “It’s about having a good time today... And to support each other.”
On the sidelines, Schuylkill Valley kindergarten students lined up to cheer on several classmates competing in the invitational.
“We want them to realize that everybody can do anything as long as they try their best,” said Schuylkill Valley kindergarten teacher Tara LeClair.
Schuylkill Valley kindergarten teacher Kathleen Deren hopes her students gain a sense of sportsmanship. One of their classmates was out on the field competing.
“He’s part of our team so we all work together and we cheer each other on and support each other,” said Deren. “We’re so excited for Raymond. Some of them even made signs for him at home to give to him so it’s fantastic.”
All participants won ribbons. The Opening Ceremony included the Torch Lap and the Athletes Oath, “Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.”
Events included Softball Throw and Shot Put, Running and Standing jumping events, meter races and relays.
After winning a third place ribbon at the Standing Jump event, Schuylkill Valley second grader Shiloh Stevenson, 8, said the Invitational “is great! Because I’m having fun.”
Oley Valley first grader Adrie Willetts stopped for a moment to say she was having a lot of fun. Then, returned to running and jumping, showing just how much fun she was having.
“I think this is a wonderful experience for the kids,” said Oley Valley Elementary life skills teacher Nancy Stump. “It gives the kids a chance to participate in events that they can truly try to do and they get to be with family.”
She liked seeing the support from siblings, parents and grandparents.
“It’s just a fun atmosphere,” said Stump. “To see the kids have fun” was her favorite part of the day.
Brandywine Heights fifth grader Jenna Moyer, 12, and her cousin, Wesley Bower, 7, a Brandywine kindergartner, also participated.
“I like competing with other people,” said Jenna. “It makes it fun by making new friends.”
Fleetwood seventh grader Alex Boyer, 13, hugged his Mom, Kim Boyer, and gave a thumbs up after participating in the Softball Throw.
His favorite part is being with his family.
His Mom, Kim, also thinks the event is great and appreciates Schuylkill Valley for hosting it.
“I like the fact that the kids can come out and feel good about what they’re doing,” said Kim, who hopes participants learn “that it’s not about winning, it’s about having a good time.”
“Today is a good day,” said Alex. “Because I’m having fun.”