SCS students participate in Special Olympics

PELHAM – Nearly 300 special needs students from Shelby County Schools gathered at the Eagle Sports Complex on Thursday, March 22, to participate in the Special Olympic games.

Valinda Pate, an SCD adapted physical education teacher said the event is by far the largest Special Olympics event of the year. The games included several track and field events among other things.

The event included inflatables, face painting, concessions, several food truck options and a DJ providing music. Pate said almost 90 volunteers helped the day go smoothly. Volunteer groups included the Alabama Power Service Organization’s E.C. Gaston Chapter, SCS teachers and staff, Shelby County Youth Leadership, Calera High School students and Chick-Fil-A.

The Calera Fire Department was on standby just in case of an emergency and Pate said the city of Calera helped set up the sports complex in preparation for the event.

Parents were allowed to attend the event to see their children compete and cheer them on.

“It is a competition, but they have so much fun and that’s all they really care about,” Pate said.

Shelby County High School 11th grader Michael Smith participated in shop put and the 200 meter dash.

“It’s really fun,” he said. “It helps you work on your coordination, it keeps you active and it’s just fun.”

Smith said getting to spend the day outside and interacting with students from other schools was a nice change of pace.

“It’s always fun to compete against other schools,” Smith said.

Shelby County High School special education teacher Soli Lilly said students who participated in the games have an opportunity to go to the statewide Special Olympics at Troy University in May.

Lilly said her students spent about a month training for their individual sports. On the day of the Special Olympics, each of Lilly’s students were paired with a peer helper to be their buddy for the day.

“This student is with them all day,” Lilly said. “It helps our students feel more independent and they love it. It’s like they have their own personal coach for the day. They motivate them and go to their events with them and cheer them on from the sidelines.”

More so than the competition, Lilly said the Special Olympics gives special needs students their opportunity to shine and show what they can do.

“This is their day to feel special and it’s all about them,” Lilly said. “They spend so much time watching other kids play sports and they want to play but can’t for medical reasons, so this is their time.”

To see more photos from this event, go to Shelbycountyphotos.com.