PHOENIX, NY – Several hundred eager special education student athletes traveled to Phoenix Central School District to participate in the 2018 Oswego County Olympiad.
As the bleachers filled with fans roaring in support, students of all ages, developmental and physical abilities from ten school districts in Oswego County joined together to compete in several track and field events.
For most students, the athletic events themselves were the highlight of the day.
“I like the racing the most, I got a second place ribbon in my race,” said 11-year-old Austin Vansanford from Mexico Central School District. He also participated in the long jump and the softball toss.
A work study student at CiTi BOCES, however, enjoyed the camaraderie of the day most.
“I like hanging out with all the other students, teachers, and my family,” said Cheyanna Dorr who participated in the long jump, shotput, and 200 meter dash.
Along with Dorr’s family, hundreds of family members and fan showed up to support the athletes.
“It’s not very often that special needs children are highlighted like this. This is a day where they can shine, where parents are coming out and watching their kids participate, involved in competition and that’s a thrill. You think of all the parents who get to go to their children’s sporting events but a lot of our special needs parents don’t get to do that because their kids aren’t involved. All of these kids coming together from across the county to compete, they are the stars of today. They are the athletes,” Phoenix Director of Special Education and Pupil Services Kathy Palladino said.
“We work so hard for our parents, to help them feel supported and cared for and guide them. It can be such a difficult thing to have a student with a disability. So, this is for them. As much as this day is for our kids, it’s for their parents, too,” she said.
The Kellison family from Central Square showed their support by proudly wearing pins with their son’s picture as he competed for the day.
“This is awesome,” Garett Kellison said. “Just to see how happy this event makes all these kids. We look forward to it every year. It’s fun and so nice that they have all the attention focused on them.”
“I get emotional even talking about it,” said Jamie Eipp, with a student athlete from APW participating in the days events. “It’s great to see the acceptance, giving these kids the same opportunities, it’s just fun is what it really comes down to.”
That fun and friendly energy is what the General Manager of the Syracuse Chiefs, Jason Smorol said “is the best thing about sport” in the ceremony’s opening remarks.
“I’m honored to speak here today,” Smorol told Oswego County Today. “This event gives access to so many students and treats special needs students like everybody else which is the best thing we can do.”
Watch below as Jason Smorol gives his opening remarks at the 2018 Oswego County Olympiad.
Prior to opening remarks, students arrived at John C. Birdlebough High School in Phoenix, exiting the bus to crowds of student volunteers, cheerleaders, mascots, music, and fans cheering.
They walked the pathway to the athletic complex to prepare for the opening parade where each school district received a roar of applause from the exciting fans packing the bleachers.
Phoenix seniors Alyssa Gouty and Hannah Grabowski belted the National Anthem before Smorol declared the Oswego County Olympiad Invitational officially open.
Phoenix has hosted the event for four years and looks forward to continuing to grow in each year, Kathy Palladino said.
“Phoenix is very passionate about their students with special needs and allowing our kids to come out here and compete. They prepare all year for this event. Our community is just passionate about kids, just about every business in town contributes to this event in one way or another,” Palladino said. “We love doing this, it gets better all the time. This is our heart.”
Watch below as several hundred excited students and staff as they are introduced by school district during the 2018 Oswego County Olympiad opening parade.