Special Olympians strive to do their best

BROOKVILLE — Despite the overcast morning, Wednesday was a day filled with fun and laughter for those who took part in the DuBois-Jefferson County Special Olympics.

“Today, May 2, is a glorious day,” Brookville Area Schools Superintendent Sandra Craft said during the opening remarks. “Although not sunny, it’s a glorious day.”

Wednesday morning, 178 athletes participated in the 33rd-annual Track & Field Day held at Brookville Area Jr.-Sr. High School.

Participants traveled from six different schools and agencies in the area, including Brockway, DuBois, Brookville, Punxsutawney, New Story School, Fayette Resources and the Central Pennsylvania Autism Academy.

“These athletes will participate in an event that demands much of their mental focus, athletic skills and determination,” Craft said. “They are all striving to be the best in an event. Today, no limits are set. We know some athletes will perform an event better than another, but the athletes should all consider themselves winners, because they are striving to exceed their own expectations.”

The day’s festivities commenced with a parade around the track, with the Brookville Jr. High School Band providing the music. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Cody Sanner, Punxsutawney; the DuBois Area High School Life Skills and multi-disabled classes led the signing of the pledge; Alan Silvis, Brookville, led the Special Olympics Oath; and track events began after the Olympic Torch Run, led by Conner Forsythe and Elijah Gibson of Brockway.

According to Stacey Truman, DuBois-Jefferson County Special Olympics manager, 210 participants signed up for the day’s festivities — an increase of 30 from 2011 — but those under the age of eight took part in the Olympic Village, where they had the chance to play carnival games.

“It’s so rewarding for them to feel that they can do something too,” she said.

Additionally, Truman said there were more than 200 volunteers, or huggers — those who are there to support the athletes — working the event.

Around 130 students from Brookville served as huggers, as well as 75 from DuBois and 50 from Punxsutawney.

“It’s an awesome thing for the kids,” Truman said. “It’s great for others to see (Special Olympics) as well. It’s such a learning experience for all kids to see these (athletes) who have to work so hard to succeed.”

Wednesday, athletes participated in a standing long jump, a running long jump, softball throw, the 50- and 100-meter dash, and the 25-meter wheelchair race.

“Some of the kids will get out of their wheelchairs and walk, and some will do it with assisted help, and some won’t,” Truman said. “Some of them do it for their parents for the first time.”

Truman reminded parents and athletes that there are many other events that take place throughout the year, including, soccer, swimming, bowling and basketball.

She said the management team is fortunate enough to be able to raise enough donations from generous sponsors in the community to fund not only the Track & Field Day, but all of the other events throughout the year as well.

But the DuBois-Jefferson County Special Olympics Management Team is always looking for new volunteers, she said.

For more information call, 814-849-2562.

“It’s a great day for the kids,” Master of Ceremonies Frank Hetrick said. “It’s their day. It’s a day in the sun. It’s just a great opportunity for them to get out there and show what they can do.”