NDSS’ Special Olympics teams returned from Toronto with quite the medal haul at the Youth Invitational Games, earning gold in soccer, silver in bocce and sixth in basketball.
The games saw over 2,500 athletes with a variety of abilities from schools across North America compete in a host of sports from May 14-17.
“This is my first gold, I was really happy,” said Paige Fox, a member of NDSS’ soccer team. “I love my team, I love this school.”
This was her second Special Olympics medal, having won bronze in bocce last year.
“It felt amazing to get a silver medal,” said Ray McNamee, a member of this year’s bocce team. “I got a bronze medal hanging up I got from bocce last year in Peterborough. My favourite part is hanging out with my friends and hanging out with the coaches and just having fun and playing games and respecting other teammates.”
McNamee says a highlight included the chance to chat with athletes from a bocce team that travelled all the way from Jamaica to take part in the games. All an all it was a great ending to his high school athletics career.
“This is my last year for bocce, I’m graduating,” he said. “I’m retiring from bocce.”
Melissa Goodwin represented NDSS in basketball.
“There were a lot more teams and you got to meet more people and make more friends,” she said, having taken part in previous Youth Invitational Games. “It was just a great experience to go to something so big that I had never been to before.”
She too will be graduating this year but hopes to come back as a coach next season.
Her teammate, Chris French, enjoyed his experience as well.
“There was a lot of energy with all the teams,” he said. “Great reffing, good memories, a great place to stay. The CN Tower was amazing.”
Mike Newstead, a School to Community teacher at NDSS as well as Special Olympics coach said this year’s event was the biggest to date. This was Napanee’s fourth time participating.
“Pretty unbelievable when you talk about the growth it’s shown over that chunk of time. We were informed next year it’ll be held in Kingston. If we make it again we’ll be one of the host schools.”
For the athletes, the trip is about more than the competition.
“Some of the kids have never travelled on the train before,” said Newstead. “So this year we got to travel on Via out of Napanee, a lot the kids were super excited. They got to go to places they’ve never been before.”
Between games they had the chance to tour Toronto, which included a trip to the top of the CN Tower and a visit to Jurassic Park to watch a Toronto Raptors playoff game.
In previous years the team had travelled to Peterborough, the Durham Region and Niagara Falls.
“It’s a really neat opportunity to learn things like teamwork,” said Newstead. “Whether you win or lose, it’s just everyone putting in their best effort, I think that’s the key.”
An added bonus is the fact that Napanee’s teams have had quite a bit of success over the last four years.
“Quite a few of these athletes we’ve had since Grade 9 and they’ve won quite a few medals,” said Newstead. “This is the second gold in soccer over the last few years. We got a gold in basketball, we got a silver in floor hockey and we received a silver and bronze in bocce. There’s quite a few athletes who have received four medals, some of them two or three, some of them maybe it’s their first.”
This year’s medal wins and strong showing in basketball was great way to cap an extremely successful year for NDSS’ Special Olympic athletes.
Some of the students will be recognized in June as part of NDSS’ annual year end athletics awards banquet.