While the rain succeeded in cutting short the competition Saturday (March 18) at Corral Memorial Stadium, it could not dampen the enthusiasm of the hundreds of athletes, supporters, and volunteers as Jesuit High School hosted the Special Olympics for the first time.
The Jesuit Dads’ Club has been a pillar of support for the Special Olympics for the past 16 years. When the opportunity arose to relocate from the University of South Florida, the Dads’ Club worked for a year with Special Olympics Florida – Hillsborough County in preparation. Supported by scores of students and other volunteer organizations, the Dads’ Club staged a wonderful event at Jesuit.
Athletes representing Hillsborough and Polk Counties marched around the track under clear skies during the Parade of Champions to begin the games at 9:00am. Opening Ceremonies included the presentation of several awards from Special Olympics administrators, including Tim Salzsieder, P ’16, '20 accepting the Community Spirit Award on behalf of the Dads’ Club, and Judy Moore, P '01 receiving the Dan Black Volunteer of the Year Award.
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 events, soccer, bocce, tennis, volleyball, and more, with St. Lawrence Catholic School assisting with hosting volleyball.
The Olympic Village with games and activities was set up in the student commons, wheelchair competition occupied the Multi-Purpose Room, and hungry athletes headed to the cafeteria for lunch.
The clouds moved in and the rain arrived at mid-day, as forecast, and several events either weren’t contested or were not completed. However, in all other regards, it was considered a major success, and the Dads’ Club hopes to host the Special Olympics for many years.
Among the dozens of Dads' Club members whose tireless efforts made this all possible are Duane Bishoff, P '02, '06 and Mike Crochet, P '07, who have been involved with the Special Olympics for more than a decade; Ken Roop, P '13, '17, the Dads' Club Chair for hosting this year; and John Bennett P '18, who was instrumental with parking and traffic logistics. Also, Blake Casper '91, CEO of Caspers Company, provided lunch for everyone via the company's McDonald's restaurants.
After the event, Jesuit received the following statement from Sarah Taylor Gogliormella, the Hillsborough County Director of Special Olympics Florida:
Jesuit High School and the Jesuit Dads’ Club assisted Special Olympics Florida – Hillsborough County in putting together a first-rate event for Special Olympics Florida's 2016 Area 8 Summer Games. With more than 600 athletes in attendance, the facilities and logistics at Jesuit created a top-notch environment allowing for high-level competition. From easy parking and navigation, to the incredible Olympic Village activities, Jesuit High School and the Jesuit Dads’ Club made all the difference. We were blown away by the amount of support and manpower that Jesuit provided; this is an incredible group of men with true servant hearts.
Months of hard work and dedication went into the planning and culmination of the event, and Special Olympics Florida looks forward to a long partnership with Jesuit High School and its extraordinary community servants. We couldn't be more grateful and humbled by Jesuit's generosity and their commitment to helping serve and advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
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.
View a photo slideshow from Saturday’s Special Olympics below, and below that is a video segment from Saturday by Adrienne Pedersen of WFLA-NBC Ch. 8:
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