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HomeNewsLocal newsSpecial Olympians Compete – with Smiles – in 38th Games

Special Olympians Compete – with Smiles – in 38th Games

Special Olympians have fun running a race.Promptly at 9 a.m., a cadre from the V.I. Police Department burst through the gate at Renaissance Park to kick off the Special Olympics on St. Croix Saturday.

Officer Janella John led the traditional Law Enforcement Torch Run. More than a dozen law enforcement personnel ran from the Frederiksted station to the Special Olympics site. John passed the torch to Special Olympian Era Daniel, who then ran around the track to launch the official parade.

The Junior ROTC Color Guard led the parade of athletes around the track before the crowd repeated the Special Olympics Pledge and promised to be brave even if they didn’t win. Gerald Evans, who has done so for three decades, sang the National Anthem and V.I. March in a clear, melodic voice.

Janice Lee, who retired after decades as director of St. Croix’s Special Olympics, served as MC once again. Last year, she said that although she was retiring, she “will be here always.” Lee thanked volunteers and sponsors and orchestrated the activities.

After a performance by the ROTC drill team, Special Olympians, grouped by ages and gender to level the playing field, scattered to participate in the games – basketball, soccer, bocce, long jump, races of 50 and 100 meters and other sports.

Attendance was lower than the 120 people who registered for the event, but those who participated demonstrated the traditional spirit of enthusiasm and competition.

Keinesia Garcia, Arianne Wright and L'Drina Adonza beam after receiving their medals Saturday.Special Olympics is one sports event where the participants don’t appear stressed or even focused on winning – an event where participation really is the goal. Time and time again, the facial expressions were smiles. The runners tried their hardest to reach the finish line – grinning all the way. Watching them compete, one would think the bocce ball players were a hardened team, but they broke up in laughter no matter who threw the ball.

Several enthusiastic young children ran repeated races just for the fun of it. A couple of smaller boys ran through the crowd at the end of their event prompting adults to try to chase them down – without coming close. Most parents were close by all of the time.

Many of the Special Olympians have participated in the competition for years.

Lutheran Social Services manages Queen Louise Home for Children, Sr. Emma Cottage for developmentally disabled children, and housing for adults with disabilities. Junia John, executive director of LSS, said the kids and adults get excited before the event and obvious by the medals. They also give it a good effort, he said.

Over the years, one client from St. Thomas participated in the world games, she said.

“This is wonderful that we have such an occasion we can really recognize people with special needs and show them the love and support they deserve,” John said.

Teams play bocce for medals at the Special Olympics.Several government officials addressed the participants and offered words of encouragement. Gov. Kenneth Mapp told the participants he was proud to attend the event “nearly every year.”

“It is about a lot of fun. It is about full inclusion and connecting with everyone here. It’s about just having a good time,” Mapp told the Source.

Vivian Ebbesen–Fludd, designated Human Services commissioner, said her department is responsible for making sure residents with disabilities “live normal lives.”

“Special Olympics allows the community to appreciate people with disabilities and really get an understanding about disabilities,” Ebbesen-Fludd said.

Senate President Neville James, Sen. Sammuel Sanes, ADA coordinator Jamilla Russell and St. Croix Administrator Stephanie Williams also attended the event. James awarded medals while Sanes, a frequent volunteer, was a timekeeper.

The Special Olympics of the Virgin Islands chapter includes all of the territory. Next weekend, games will be held on St. Thomas.

Funding for events and travel are raised through donations and the staff and coaches are volunteers.

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