Island athletes find fun and success at Cape Cod Special Olympics

Oak Bluffs School sixth grader Grace Carroll participates in the parachute event. — Photo by Katherine Donegan

Fourteen Vineyard athletes traveled Friday to Dennis-Yarmouth High School in South Yarmouth to participate in the 7th annual Cape Cod School Day Games, the largest Special Olympics event in Southeastern Massachusetts.

The event, previously held at Mashpee High School, was moved indoors in its debut at Dennis-Yarmouth due to rain. The wet weather did little to dampen the athletes’ positive spirits as they participated in a range of events.

Seven athletes attended from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) and seven from Island elementary schools. They were joined by students from 26 schools across the Cape. Students and volunteers from Mashpee and Dennis-Yarmouth High Schools were on hand to assist the athletes throughout the event.

The Cape Cod School Day Games focuses on fostering independence and support. This year’s event maintained that goal.

“It’s a day of celebrating successes and abilities and a day of smiles from all the participants,” MVRHS special needs teacher Donna Bishop said.

The MVRHS athletes had been training all year in their adaptive physical education class, led by physical education teacher Lisa Knight and life skills teacher Laura Debettencourt. The class emphasized the importance of independence as well as cooperation, which the students demonstrated willingly at the event by clapping and cheering each other on. “It’s the day that we look forward to and prepare for every single year,” Ms. Debettencourt said.

After being greeted by enthusiastic volunteers as they exited the bus, the athletes attended the opening ceremonies and watched the Massachusetts Honor Guard procession march to the sound of bagpipes. The Games began after two members of the Dennis-Yarmouth team carried the ceremonial torch through the school gym.

Veteran MVRHS athletes Celeste Ewing, 22, Austin Simonin, 18, and Elke Klein, 18, participated in their fourth consecutive Cape Cod School Day Games and led their teammates with much bravado. Paige Taylor and Igor Avansini returned to the Cape for a third straight year, while Jackie Deitz and Dan Meaney took part for the first time.

The athletes competed in eight events, consisting of the 100-meter dash, soccer ball kick, Frisbee throw, bowling, long jump, hacky sack toss, hula hooping, and the much-loved parachute. The parents, teachers, and students who attended, nearly 70 strong, provided great support and enthusiasm for each success, including Austin’s perfect strike in bowling and Jackie’s winning leap in the long jump.

The event concluded with medals and ice cream for all of the athletes after a day of great success and accomplishment.