Friday, Oct. 7th, was a wonderful day for many reasons.

Mount St. Joseph University special olympians walking in the race

For Mount St. Joseph University students, it was the mid-semester break, a day where they didn’t have to wake up early for classes and could use it to sleep in if they wanted to. For students who are a part of the schools that make up the Special Olympics organization of Hamilton County, it was an opportunity to spend a few hours having fun, getting exercise, and just being kids.

Cross country and track and field coach Tina Blakely had requested volunteers from the track and field team to help work the Special Olympics event that was going on at the Centennial Field House that morning. Having nothing else to do during that time, I decided to come out and help volunteer. This was not my first time helping with the Special Olympics event, as I had volunteered the year previous as well.

When I arrived at the Centennial Field House that Friday morning, I could sense a feeling of excitement in the air. I knew that it was going to be a great day for both the volunteers and the kids. The path to the field house was lined with the cheerful faces of Mount track and field, volleyball, and basketball athletes who greeted the Special Olympians and the staff as they arrived. The joy in the kids’ faces was evident; you could tell that they were glad to be there when they said good morning and waved back at you.

There was a buzz of anticipation among the Special Olympians that continued when you stepped inside the Centennial Field House. While upbeat songs like “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross and Disney favorites played on the field house stereo, the Special Olympians sat in the bleachers talking and laughing, while others had already started to run and walk around the indoor track.

Blakely, who was one of the main organizers for the event, gathered everyone together once all the schools who were attending had arrived and gave instructions on the different events. There were several events for the Special Olympians to participate in: softball throw, javelin, long jump, high jump, and the 60-meter relay. Each school was assigned to participate in a different circuit and rotate after a certain period to the next circuit.

Along with several other people, I oversaw the 60-meter relay event for the Special Olympians. At first, it was slightly chaotic, but once we got into a system as to how the relays would be set up, it ended up running smoothly. We gave each of them a baton that they would pass to the next person in their lane as they ran to meet them. One of us would start the relay and several of us would make sure all the batons were collected once the relay was over.

When I watched the Special Olympians participate in the events that day, there was a certain attitude that they displayed that couldn’t be denied, one of pure happiness and confidence in their abilities. The Special Olympics event at the Centennial Fieldhouse let them showcase who they are and helped them realize that even though they are not traditional athletes, they can still bring the same amount of energy and drive to competition.