For the third straight year, Jesuit High School and the Jesuit Dads' Club will host the annual regional Special Olympics.
This Saturday, March 24, the Special Olympics Florida 2018 Area 8 Summer Games will take place at Jesuit. From the 9:00am Parade of Athletes and Opening Ceremonies until about 4:00pm, Jesuit's Corral Memorial Stadium, and other locations about campus, will host the athletic competition featuring upwards of 700 Special Olympics athletes. Supporting the event will be hundreds of spectators and coaches, and hundreds more Jesuit student volunteers and other volunteers from organizations such as the Junior League of Tampa.
Tampa Bay Rays broadcaster and former major league baseball player Orestes Destrade will serve as Grand Marshal. The sports contested at Jesuit include all of the track & field events, plus soccer, bocce, cycling, and the Motor Activity Training Program (MATP) for athletes with profound intellectual or physical disabilities. The volleyball and tennis will be contested at Hillsborough Community College on Dale Mabry Hwy.
The Dads' Club is involved year-round in planning the event, and their dedicated involvement in the Special Olympics is a cherished annual tradition. The school community began to ramp up for this year's Special Olympics on Feb. 23 at Convocation. Athlete and global ambassador Thomas Shervington spoke to the Jesuit student body about the extraordinary impact the Special Olympics has made on his life.
The Dads' Club and Jesuit students have been a driving force in the success of the Special Olympics in Tampa, and Jesuit's involvement dates back to the roots of Special Olympics Florida. On June 3, 1972, Eunice Kennedy Shriver (the founder of the Special Olympics) and Gov. Reubin Askew came to Jesuit, and, along with Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, they lit the Olympic Torch as the school hosted the first statewide Special Olympics.
After years at the University of South Florida, in 2016 the Special Olympics Florida Area 8 Summer Games were brought back to Jesuit by the Dads' Club. Area 8 covers Hillsborough, Polk, and Highland Counties, and is one of 11 designated areas in Florida that annually conduct Special Olympics State Championships. The athletes will be competing to advance to the Special Olympics Florida State Games on May 18-19 at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Additionally, Special Olympics Florida Healthy Community – Tampa Bay will be providing free dental and audiological screenings on Saturday, sponsored by WellCare Health Plans, to any individual with an intellectual or developmental disability over age 8 from 8:30am to 1:30pm. All food is donated by Caspers Company/McDonald's.
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. Special Olympics Florida – Hillsborough County currently serves more than 1,500 athletes in 17 different sports. The athletes also are invited to participate in Athlete Leadership Programs and Healthy Athletes initiatives. More than 1,200 people from Tampa Bay volunteer each year with Special Olympics Florida – Hillsborough County.
Below is an image from the June 1972 Jesuit Alumni Newsletter of the first Special Olympics in Florida, which was held at Jesuit on June 3, 1972.