The Jesuit Dads' Club and Special Olympics Florida–Hillsborough County came together once again this year to produce something truly special at Jesuit High School on Saturday (March 25).
More than 600 athletes, and hordes of enthusiastic supporters and volunteers – including hundreds of Jesuit students – enjoyed an exhilarating day of competition as Jesuit hosted Special Olympics Florida's 2017 Area 8 Summer Games. (View a TV segment and photo slideshow below.)
The Dads' Club has been engaged with the Special Olympics for 17 years, and last year, for the first time, the Games were hosted by Jesuit after years at the University of South Florida. Unfortunately, the 2016 inaugural event at Jesuit was marred by rain that cut the day short.
Saturday, the skies were brilliant and months of planning came to fruition. Athletes representing Hillsborough and Polk Counties marched around the track under clear skies during the Parade of Champions at 9:00am. The Opening Ceremonies included the presentation of awards from Sarah Taylor Gogliormella, the Hillsborough County Director of Special Olympics Florida, with John Mace, P '17 accepting an award on behalf of the Dads’ Club for "sincere appreciation for your commitment and support of the athletes of the Special Olympics."
Jesuit president Fr. Richard C. Hermes, S.J. delivered the Invocation, and four athletes ran a ceremonial torch relay lap around the track. The competition began at 10:00am and included track & field, soccer, bocce, tennis (at Hillsborough Community College), volleyball, and cycling (at St. Lawrence Catholic School).
The Olympic Village in the Student Commons was filled with games/activities and bustling all day, the wheelchair competition occupied Faber Hall, and hungry athletes headed to the cafeteria for lunch, where they were greeted by Ronald McDonald. Blake Casper '91, CEO of Caspers Company, provided lunch for everyone via the company's McDonald's restaurants.
Supported by scores of Jesuit students (pictured with an athlete on the homepage are Lazaro Alvelaez '18, left, and Oscar Lopez '20, right) and several other volunteer organizations, the Dads’ Club staged a wonderful event Saturday that was considered a major success. They hope to continue hosting the Special Olympics for many years.
Among the dozens of Dads' Club members whose tireless efforts made this all possible are Ken Roop, P '13, '17, who was the Dads' Club Chair for hosting for a second straight year; Kevin O'Brien '81, Duane Bishoff, P '02, '06, and Mike Crochet, P '07, who have been involved with the Special Olympics for more than a decade; and Mike Sweet, P '16, '19, and John Bennett P '18, who were instrumental with parking and traffic logistics.
Founded in the 1960s, today Special Olympics Inc. is the world’s largest provider of fitness training, education and athletic competition – coupled with social, life, and leadership skill development opportunities – for children and adults with intellectual disabilities or a similar developmental disability. Special Olympics Florida was founded in 1972 and is one of the largest volunteer-driven athletic organizations in the state.
Click below for a TV segment by Sara Belsole of Bay News 9, and click below that for an extensive photo slideshow from the Special Olympics:
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