A whale of a good time was had by all at the third annual School Games sponsored by Special Olympics Santa Barbara. Just ask the Canalino Whales, one of the 20 teams that had athletes competing in track and field events at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium on Friday, May 6.
“I run super-duper fast,” said Ben Medina, a fourth grader at Carpinteria’s Canalino School, after he finished the 50-meter dash.
“It’s really neat to see him out there,” said David Medina, father of the autistic 11-year-old. “This is the first time he’s tried Special Olympics. He’s opened up a lot more since he got involved.”
More than 150 children with intellectual disabilities experienced the excitement of competition in runs, jumps and throws. They represented elementary schools and junior highs from Carpinteria to Santa Ynez
Ben Medina had several classmates cheering him on. “They are general education kids who volunteered to train and support [the Special Olympians],” said Brandon Sportel, special ed teacher at Canalino. “Promoting awareness – that’s what this is all about.”
Fourth-graders Solomon Nahooikaika and Derek True held up signs with Ben’s and other athletes’ names.
“Special Olympics is for kids who don’t get to play regular sports,” said Nahooikaika. “They get to win here and have medals and fun.”
At the end of the meet, all the Canalino kids lined up on the infield and ran a race together. Though weighed down by medals, the Special Olympians gave their classmates a spirited chase.
Sara Spataro, regional director of Special Olympics Santa Barbara County, said 80 volunteers helped the games run smoothly. Among them were local college students – including the UCSB women’s volleyball team – and law enforcement officers who awarded medals, a welcome change from arrests and citations.