Special Olympians get emotional boost from pep rally

Special Olympics athletes and their student volunteer coaches were introduced and cheered on at Elyria’s Ely Stadium on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Brookside High School Yearbook staff

The following story originally appeared in the May 26 edition of The Press.

Sheffield Village/

Sheffield Lake/Elyria

The Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Schools’ (S-SL) athletes made their appearance in the 30th annual Lorain County Special Olympic games at Elyria’s Ely Stadium on Thursday. It was their biggest and best showing ever.

The Cardinals’ Special Olympic squad, 35 strong, had the biggest roster the district had ever fielded for the event. The team featured athletes in first through 12th grade, representing every one of the six S-SL schools. Every student in the district got involved too, raising funds, staging pep rallies and cheering enthusiastically to support their fellow Cardinals.

Most of the fundraising came from the community, but Brookside High School students raised $450 during a five-day “Pie In The Eye” contest: Students voted for the staff members they wanted to see take a cream pie in the face from a Special Olympian. The “winners” were English teacher Marcus Whiteamire, third place (one pie); second-place winner, math teacher Kate Golden (two pies); and first-place winner, assistant principal Bob Shaffer. Shaffer got three pies, then tagged Special Olympics Coordinator Chris Chidlaw with an extra pie he’d hidden just for the occasion.

“It comes with the job,” Shaffer said, laughing and wiping cream off his face.

The Special Olympic team’s “coaching staff” – the special education teachers and their aides, the physical education teachers at all grade levels and at least one of 48 high school students -volunteer coach for each athlete. Pep rallies held May 11 – with the Brookside band playing and the entire student body cheering – and at Sheffield Middle School (SMS) on May 12 got the team fired up for the games, scheduled for May 13.

Storms caused the games to be postponed until May 18. Postponed again on the 18th, the games finally took place on Thursday. Nothing could dampen the student athletes’ enthusiasm, however.

“Although the delays were disappointing, the athletes handled it great,” Chidlaw said. “It ended up working out perfectly because we couldn’t have asked for a better day weather wise. I think the pep rally went very well. All the athletes were really excited and the whole school was very supportive and involved in the Pie in the Eye fundraiser and the pep rally. I just want to thank everyone that was involved in making this year’s Special Olympics such a huge success.”

“The special Olympics were fantastic like always,” SMS teacher Emily Carl said. “The students were not affected by the rain date changes, but we are all so thankful that it was a sunny and nice day. The athletes loved the pep rallies. They went to the one at Brookside and then the following day our 8th grade teachers and their classes put one on at SMS.”

The student athletes competed in at least two events. Brookside’s Ahmad Farraj, Jonah Giffore, Cassie Mannon, Sierra Martinez, Seneca McKinney and Shelby Welther all competed in the 100-meter dash and the softball throw, with Welther finishing first in both events and Mannon tied for first in the 100 meters. Jasmine Zan was first in standing long jump and second in the 100 meters.

SMS students Jon Block, Tyler Noell, Charles Feiler, Pheonix Elwell and Taylor Calvert all competed in the 100-meter dash and softball throw, with first place in the 100 meters going to Calvert and Feiler, who also took first in the softball throw.

Jared Griffin took first place in the Ramp Roll and second place in the Bean Bag.

Barr Elementary’s Dylan Hartley and Olivia Trout competed in the 50-meter dash and the softball throw while Nick Zehe ran fourth in the 50-meter race. Four second- and third-grade students (ages 7-10) represented Tennyson and competed in two events each. Six kindergarten and first-grade students competed in “under 8” events representing Knollwood – all competing in the softball throw. Five ran the 50-meter dash, and one did the long jump.

In all, teams from 13 school districts competed at Ely Stadium.

Seven of the Cardinals qualified to go to Columbus in June for the state Special Olympics in Ohio Stadium where the crowds will be bigger. The athletes will stay on campus in OSU dormitories.

“The Special Olympics are all about inclusion,” Chidlaw said. “We encourage every kid we think will benefit from the experience to compete in Special Olympics.”

Contact John Edwards at news@2presspapers.com

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