NDSS’ Special Olympic student-athletes were given a hero’s send off on Friday prior to heading to Toronto to take part in Special Olympics Invitational Youth Games, which began Tuesday and run through Friday.
A pep-rally style event was held inside the school’s gym, welcoming the 20 students with their coaches who will represent NDSS in basketball, bocce ball and soccer. Their fellow students offered well wishes followed by speeches from NDSS principal Erin Pincivero and Shannon Cork of the L&A County OPP.
“This is my third year as part of the great stuff that’s going on,” said Riley Bird-Lyman, a member of the school’s Special Olympic soccer team. “We won silver in ringette and gold in basketball in 2017. We also snuck into the gold medal game in 2015. It’s been great. It’s very competitive at some points.”
As much as he was looking forward to competing at this week’s events, he said spending time with his teammates was just as big of a highlight.
“I got some really good friends on the team,” he said. “They’re really awesome and good at sports.”
Joining him on the soccer team is Jordan Bartraw, Blaine Carscallen, Jacob Hutchings, Kristy Wood, Stacey Masson, Paige Fox, Donovan Near and Sarah Mills.
Chris French, a member of the basketball team said playing sports has helped him to learn teamwork.
“You get to work with everyone and there’s lots of strategy involved in the sports,” said French. “Hopefully we will bring home gold.”
Also on the basketball team is Zach Powell, Andrew Spilek, Liz Mason and Melissa Goodwin.
The bocce team is made up of Austin Foster, Ray McNamee, Carlee Maxwell and Marika Vanderkooy.
This year’s event will be the biggest in the event history, with sports taking place across Toronto at Seneca College, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto. Teams will be coming from across Canada, as well as a few states. All told over 2,500 athletes and coaches will take part.
“Sometimes you have people at different levels,” said Mike Newstead, school to community teacher and coach with NDSS. “What we had discussions about the other day, we can all be at different levels of experience, but those players that are more experienced, they can mentor those individuals and help those along because a team is only as useful as every single one of those players.”
Newstead said Friday’s pep rally was a perfect way to fire up the athletes before this week’s competition.
“It’s great to see this support from the school,” said Newstead. “Limestone has done a great job of supporting us. Erin our principal has done a great job of allowing us to go. There’s quite a few teachers required to go away to this and she’s always been supportive.”
The 2019 event marks the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics. The event will see athletes aged 13-21 with intellectual disabilities take part in five sports, divided into groups that match their abilities to ensure a level playing field.