Southampton hosts Special Olympics

Published 7:56 am Friday, May 1, 2015

Southampton High School student Kaitlyn Thompson finishes the last stretch of a race in the Special Olympics. She is assisted by senior Katie Caulder.

Southampton High School student Kaitlyn Thompson finishes the last stretch of a race in the Special Olympics event. She is assisted by senior Katie Caulder.

Southampton High School, in conjunction with Lee-Davis High School of Mechanicsville and Prince George High School, hosted the Special Olympics “Champions Together” track and field event on Tuesday evening.

Southampton’s team of 12 athletes and 12 partners trained heavily for the event, which consisted of athletes and their partners competing in the 25-, 100- and 400-meter assisted run, the 400-meter unified relay, tennis ball throw, softball throw and shot put. The athletes practiced for the event in their daily physical education class.

“Tuesday was not as much about athletic talent, but more about building friendships and embracing acceptance while having a fantastic time,” said Amy Davis, special education teacher and softball coach at Southampton. “The feedback from the event has been incredible from the athletes, fans, visiting schools and parents.”

The mission of Special Olympics Virginia is to provide a year-round sports training and competition program for persons with intellectual disabilities or cognitive delays, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other athletes and the community.

The unified sports program in which Southampton participates is a new partnership between Special Olympics Virginia and the Virginia High School League. The goal of the program is to work together to build communities of acceptance and inclusion through the engagement of young people in schools throughout the commonwealth by giving students with and without intellectual disabilities an opportunity to compete as teammates while paving the way for social inclusion community-wide.

That said, 30 student volunteers went through an application process to be a part of the “Champions Together” program at Southampton. When the students were accepted into the program, they received a letter from Rick Jeffrey, president of Special Olympics Virginia.

“Together we can build a school, a community, a world more respectful in its conduct and more inclusive in its makeup,” he said.

Davis said she would like to thank Southampton Superintendent Dr. Alvera J. Parrish, Principal Allene Atkinson and Director of Special Education Dr. Tonia Taylor for their contributions.

“Without their support and encouragement, beneficial activities like this one would not be possible,” she said. “I also would like to thank the awesome staff here at SHS for lending many helping hands.”

Members of the community helped with the event, as well, including Manry Rawls Insurance Company and the Courtland Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, who sent a unit to ensure the safety of the participants.

“Tuesday was a great day,” Davis said. “Changing the world is a team sport.”