On May 18th, M-A’s Independent Living Skills (ILS) program took part in Super Sports Day, a day of competing in sports events, catching up with friends, and cheering each other on.
M-A teachers, paraprofessionals, and students brought their supplies to Woodside High School’s field. They settled themselves on blankets and chairs under their tents’ shade. Loudspeakers alternated between playing music and broadcasting the Special Olympics athlete oath, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
While the Bears enjoyed a brunch of apples, Uncrustables, orange juice, and chocolate milk, athletes from other organizations crowded under their own tents. The other participating programs were: T.R.A.C.E., the District’s program for young adults; Woodside; Sequoia; Carlmont; and Hillsdale.
With the participants on the field and an audience in the bleachers, a Sequoia student sang the national anthem. The athletes then recited the Super Sports Day oath, “Let me be brave. If I cannot be brave, I will try to win. But if I cannot win, I will try my best.”
The commentator then announced the first event of the day: the mile. Athletes made their way around the track, some running, others in wheelchairs pushed by paraprofessionals. Other members of the delegations stood on the sidelines, cheering and holding up banners.
ILS teacher Christy Soto said, “What’s unique is that Super Sports Day allows anybody with any ability to participate. So we have things for people in wheelchairs, things for people who need a little bit of support walking or running, and activities for more able-bodied students as well. I think that’s probably one of the most important things: just being there and seeing our students being able to participate.”
Once athletes finished the mile, it was time for “open pit”: athletes could try their hand at a wide variety of events, including the softball throw, turbo javelin, rocket launch, short relay race, and sprint.
Bears interested in these events first headed to the area set aside for projectile-related contests. They practiced their stance or tossed and caught the softballs to warm up, before propelling a flock of softballs, javelins, and rackets. They then fetched their projectiles to try again.
Once they had their fill, the Bears walked across the field to rest a little in the shade of their tent.
A group then set out for the nearby, very popular sprint races. Students sat in chairs before being called to step up to the starting line. Once instructed to begin, they made their way to the finish line, where they were greeted with cheers, high fives, and elbow bumps. Some athletes performed victory dances or got back in line to run again.
One M-A student said, “I like the running, the javelin, and the softball.” Another said, “I love running.”
Throughout the day, alumni of M-A’s ILS program who are now at T.R.A.C.E. came over to catch up. Soto said, “Sometimes, students are able to see some previous classmates that move on into the adult program. So it’s also really exciting to see some past classmates and just check in and see how they’re doing.”
Students also danced to the music playing over the loudspeakers, teaching each other moves to hits like “Party in the USA.”
The commentator announced the much-anticipated relay race, and athletes headed to their starting positions. Once everyone was ready, they made their way around the track, passing the baton to the cheers of their classmates. M-A ILS paraprofessional Diana Lauese said, “I think my favorite competition would have to be the relay race, just because we practice so hard before, like weeks prior to it. Just to see my students actually pull through and to get second place, I’m really proud of them.”
During lunch, the Bears relaxed as they enjoyed free pizza, Gatorade, fruit cups, and cookies. Afterwards, the commentator announced the dance party. Willing students made their way to the fifty-yard mark for a cha-cha line.
Once the dancing concluded, the Bears packed up and made their way to the bus that would take them back to M-A.
Lauese said, “My favorite part of Super Sports Day is spending time with the kids and just seeing kids that are normally shy break out of their comfort zone.”
Soto said, “You might see someone who might look different than you. It doesn’t mean that they can’t do some of the things that you are also interested in doing. I think that it’s really important to keep an open mind. Maybe someone might be different, they might not be able to run as fast, but they can still go out there and participate. I think it’s just all about involvement and inclusion. Everyone should be included.”