Fifty years after the very first Special Olympics in state of Florida took place at Jesuit High School, the Jesuit Dads' Club staged perhaps its greatest Special Olympics ever. The 50th anniversary event on Saturday (March 26) at Jesuit featured gorgeous weather, great athletic competition, and the spirit and camaraderie that have been hallmarks of the Special Olympics at Jesuit since the very beginning.
Some 500+ athletes plus hundreds more Jesuit students, Mothers' Club volunteers, and many others all helped make it come together beautifully. Commemorating the special anniversary during the Parade of Athletes and Opening Ceremonies was Kevin Murray '71. It was Murray's brother, Ruri Murray, alongside Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Florida Gov. Reubin Askew, and Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, who lit the torch at that historic first event at Jesuit in 1972.
Ruri Murray, who passed away in 2016, competed in those first Games as an athlete, and Saturday, it was Kevin Murray who helped the hand-held torch make its way around the track, passed from athlete-to-athlete, before lighting the giant torch on Alumni Field. Former Jesuit teacher/coach Dan Bonilla also was recognized during the Opening Ceremonies. Bonilla played major role in that first Special Olympics at Jesuit five decades ago.
WWE Global Ambassador Titus O'Neil was the Grand Marshal. He rallied the crowd with his trademark style and charisma, setting the tone for the amazing day. The athletes competed numerous track events and field events, bocce, cycling, soccer, and cheer. After the Opening Ceremonies, which were punctuated by a helicopter flyover by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department and Tampa Police Department, the volleyball competitors headed over to Hillsborough Community College for their competition.
Throughout the day, the athletes enjoyed a respite of fun and games at the Olympic Village adjacent to the Student Commons on the east side of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Lunches were donated to the Special Olympics by Jersey Mike's.
The Special Olympics at Jesuit is the result of a remarkable team effort between the Dads' Club and Special Olympics Florida–West Coast Region, led by SOF-WCR director Ken Roop, P '13, '17. The Dads' Club is involved year-round in planning the event, and their dedication to the cause is a cherished annual tradition and driving force in the success of the Special Olympics in the region.
To kick-off the Special Olympics at Jesuit this year, Special Olympics athlete and global messenger Thomas Shervington, as he has on many occasions in previous years, spoke to the Jesuit student body at Convocation on March 21. Click here to view the video of Shervington's presentation.
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 at Jesuit in 1972 and is one of the largest volunteer-driven athletic organizations in the state.
Click below for a phenomenal photo slideshow from the Special Olympics on March 26 at Jesuit.
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