Special Olympian DJ Smith competes in the Softball Throw. Photo by Erin Hurley- Mustang Daily

San Luis Obispo’s Teach Elementary School held a recreational Special Olympics event for 15 resident athletes of San Luis Obispo County on Saturday.

The event included a variety of games such as the football toss and the 50-meter walking race. It was open to any registered Special Olympian in San Luis Obispo County ages eight and older.

Teach Elementary School serves students in grades 4-6 in the San Luis Coastal Unified School District. Fourth grade teacher Guy Crabbe  suggested organizing a Special Olympics event.

“I wanted something the school could do that was unique and would connect us with the community,” Crabb said. “I think it’s a great way for our kids to interact with new people, and it’s something to be proud of in a time when there are so many negative things happening in the world.”

Volunteers arrived at 9 a.m. to set up the games; the athletes began to arrive around 10. The Special Olympians were sorted into 11 teams with names like the Cougars and the Eagles. Student volunteers from Teach School were put on the teams to encourage them to get to know the athletes.

Each team played a game for 10 or 20 minutes and then rotated to a new one. Crabb also had Wii games set up in one of the school’s classrooms to give the athletes new activities to try, such as wakeboarding and bowling.

The Special Olympians were eager to show their skills. Dana Miller, 23, from Los Osos, won a Special Olympics award a few years ago in Long Beach; Saturday she won a gold medal for Wii bowling.

“The Wii bowling was my favorite. I have it at home, so I practice a lot,” Miller said.

Parents of the Olympians were also eager to see their children participate. Alisa Smith of San Luis Obispo brought her 9-year-old son DJ to compete.

“He (was) excited and nervous. DJ loves sports, and this is his first event as a Special Olympian. He was really happy to make new friends,” Smith said.

Crabb presented the idea for the event last fall at a Teach School Boosters Club meeting. The school then began to get the word out by publishing press releases and promoting the event on several community calendars.

The Special Olympics regional office in downtown San Luis Obispo assisted the school in advertising. Crabb gave the office fliers announcing the event, which were distributed to Special Olympics coaches all over the county. Regional Director Jody Watty was very supportive of the idea.

“This was not so much an official competition as a chance for the athletes to come together and have fun,” Watty said. “It’s also rewarding for the student volunteers to get a chance to overcome the stereotypes that come with meeting someone different.”

Students, teachers and parents from Teach School were eager to help with the event, and San Luis Obispo High School students volunteered their time as well. Fourth-grader Miranda Stevenson said the experience was very enlightening.

“People really underestimate what Special Olympians can do. They played some of the games better than I did. They’re really not that different from anyone else,” Stevenson said.

At 1 p.m., Teach faculty members gave out homemade gold, silver and bronze medals to the Special Olympians. Crabb was confident the event was a success and said he hopes it will continue.

“It doesn’t matter how long they were here for, as long as they came and had fun,” he said. “Hopefully when they go back home and show their medals to their friends, the word will spread.”

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