On a beautiful Saturday (April 6) at Jesuit High School, the Jesuit Dads' Club did it again, hosting another sensational Hillsborough County Special Olympics.
Some 1,000 athletes and coaches enjoyed a wonderful opportunity to showcase their competitive athletic talents on Jesuit's facilities, supported by hundreds of volunteers – including more than 200 Jesuit students – and spectators, as Jesuit and the Dads' Club played host to the Special Olympics Area VIII Games for the 4th straight year.
It all began at 9:00am at Corral Memorial Stadium with the traditional spectacle of the Parade of Athletes and Opening Ceremonies, which featured Special Olympics World Games gold medalist Robert Moore as the Grand Marshal and a helicopter flyover by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department and Tampa Police Department.
Athletes then competed in track & field and cycling at Corral Memorial Stadium, and in soccer and bocce on adjacent fields. Also competing were Motor Activity Training Program athletes with profound intellectual or physical disabilities, and cheerleaders performed inside the Al Lopez Sports Complex. Across Dale Mabry Hwy, Hillsborough Community College hosted the volleyball and tennis competitions.
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. McDonald's lunches were donated to the Special Olympics by Caspers Company.
The Special Olympics at Jesuit is the result of a remarkable team effort between the Dads' Club and Special Olympics Florida–Hillsborough County, led by SOF-HC director Ken Roop, P '13, '17. While Saturday marked the fourth straight year Jesuit High School and the Dads' Club hosted the annual regional Special Olympics (officially named the Special Olympics Florida 2019 Area VIII Summer Games), the Dads' Club's involvement dates back four decades.
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. The school'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 were brought back to Jesuit by the Dads' Club.
To kick-off the 2019 event, Special Olympics athlete and global messenger Thomas Shervington spoke to the Jesuit student body at Convocation on March 20. It marked the 3rd straight year Shervington has launched Special Olympics season at Jesuit with a Convocation presentation. 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 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.
Click below for a phenomenal photo slideshow from the Special Olympics on April 6 at Jesuit, featuring more than 150 images.