For the 14th year in a row, the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) partnered with Special Olympics of Northern California to bring the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program to local schools. These events, known as Super Sports Days, are made possible through an education program aimed at encouraging interaction between special education student athletes and their non-disabled peers.
For Stephanie Colombo, a Leadership teacher and the activities director at Terra Nova, it was hard to express just how important Super Sports Day was to her students: “The kids spotlighted here are the ones who get lost in the crowd,” she said. “Events like these help bring those athletes to the forefront.” Theo Paat, Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program Coordinator, confirmed the importance of the event and added that it was really the support of individuals like Ms. Colombo that made it possible.
And the athletes certainly enjoyed being given their time to shine. The day started with a ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch, followed by a parade of schools and the recitation of the Special Olympic oath.
After that, it was off to the races! Wave after wave of student athletes participated in the mile run, the 50-yard dash, wheelchair races, softball throw, and the standing long jump, while teachers, parents, and general education peers encouraged them from the sidelines. Liam Murphy, a volunteer from City College of San Francisco’s Fire Science Program, enjoyed being able to run times for the student athletes. “The kids are having a blast,” he said. “It’s inspiring to say the least.”
One spectator asked if I had ever been to an event like this one. “It’s the purest thing in sports,” he said. “When I came to my first Special Olympics, I cried. The kids were just so happy.”