After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, one of Jesuit's most cherished annual traditions returned on Saturday (March 27) as the Jesuit Dads' Club hosted the annual regional Special Olympics!
At 9:00am, moments after the helicopter flyover by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Tampa Police Department, Paige Kroupa of the Power Pedalers team read the athlete's oath: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
With that gesture, the Hillsborough-Pinellas Special Olympics Summer Games had returned for the first time since 2019. Many COVID-19 safety modifications were implemented, and the hundreds of athletes and volunteers – including more than 200 Jesuit students – were thrilled to be back in action. (Click here for a TV segment by Dalia Dangerfield of Bay News 9 previewing the event.)
The athletes competed in bocce, soccer, tennis, track & field, cycling, and tennis, with the tennis taking place at Hillsborough Community College. Winners advanced to the statewide competition later this spring.
Ken Roop, P '13, '17, the West Coast Regional Director for the Special Olympics in Florida, and Ernie Garateix, P '21, the Dads' Club chair for the Special Olympics, led the way for the resumption of the Special Olympics throughout Florida. The Dads' Club is involved year-round in planning the event, and their dedicated involvement in the Special Olympics dates back decades.
Enthusiasm for this year's Special Olympics was elevated by a Convocation presentation March 24 from Thomas Shervington. The Special Olympics athlete and global messenger 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. In 2016, after years at the University of South Florida, the Special Olympics were brought back to Jesuit by the Dads' Club.
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 is one of the largest volunteer-driven athletic organizations in the state. More than 1,200 people from Tampa Bay volunteer each year with Special Olympics Florida – Hillsborough County.
Please view below a photo slideshow from the 2021 Special Olympics at Jesuit.