Special education student-athletes from all over the Bay Area were running, jumping and throwing Tuesday as part of the 2013 Bay Area Games track-and-field competition.
The Bay Area Games, now in its second year, is organized by the Special Olympics of Northern California. It involves roughly 450 special-ed students from Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties and the Tri-Valley area.
The event was open to all qualified special education student-athletes grades K-12, who have all been training for the competition as part of the Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program.
The Schools Partnership Program provides 24 weeks of training in three sports – soccer, basketball and track and field – to over 4,600 special education students. Organizers said this is the first time many of these students have been part of a sports team or competed in an athletic event.
“It was another outstanding event,” CEO and President of Special Olympics Northern California Rick Collett said. “More people got to understand what the Special Olympics Northern California Schools Partnership Program is all about. They got to see disabled and non-disabled students working together on the field towards one goal – having a great track meet. We had great volunteers from Acalanes High School.”
After the games wrap up, the students will be honored by the San Francisco, El Cerrito, Pleasant Hill, Richmond and BART police departments, along with the California Highway Patrol and San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.
Congressman Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, opened the games this morning at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, event spokeswoman Anna Oleson-Wheeler said.
Oakland Athletics announcer Dick Callahan also attended the opening ceremony after a late night working at the 19-inning Oakland A's game against the Los Angeles Angels.
The students train in soccer, basketball and track-and-field. At today's events, 150 non-disabled students from Acalanes High School were volunteering and assisting with the various heats, which included wheelchair races, javelin throws, long jumps, ball throws, sprints and walks, Oleson-Wheeler said.
About Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program: This education program in K-12 public schools unifies disabled and non-disabled students and sees 4,600 special education students train and compete in three sports with the involvement and support of 2,300 general education peers. Sports offer a common ground for all special and general education students, many of whom have never had positive social interactions with each other. Students organize campus activities to create climates of inclusion, acceptance and respect for all. Via Project UNIFY, general education students engage with the special education students in the classroom as well as during training and competition. Many of the disabled students have never played sports before, and the support of their schoolmates and families builds confidence and self-esteem that carries into the classroom and adulthood. Special Olympics Northern California provides a grant to a school district or county to offset the program’s cost. The program is currently active in 200 schools throughout San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Fresno counties and the Tri-Valley area. Find out more at www.SchoolPartnershipProgram.org or www.SONC.org. Visit our blog www.OurUnifiedSchools.com.
Bay City News contributed to this report.