Penn Hills athletes volunteer for school’s Special Olympics day

Thursday, August 2, 2018 | 10:15 PM

No matter someone’s age, gender, race or physical and mental capabilities, everyone wants to compete and do their best, knowing they can physically do anything they put their mind to.

The members of the Penn Hills extended-stay, after-school program for autistic and intellectually disabled children in kindergarten through 12th grade competed in the annual Penn Hills Special Olympics on July 26.

In its seventh-year, the Penn Hills Special Olympics day marks the culmination of the extended-stay program. The event consisted of around 60 participants from the Penn Hills Special Education program.

The children participated in running, jumping and throwing events fit to their age and ability. Participants had the opportunity to do the turbo javelin, a softball or tennis ball throw, standing broad jump, long jump and various running events that included relay teams.

“They love it. They love the interaction with the older kids like the football and soccer players. They love getting the medals. They love the face painting,” special education coordinator Brian Francis said.

Francis couldn’t be more thankful for all the volunteers and donations to make the seventh year of this event go off without a hitch.

Leading point in this annual event, Francis continues to receive the necessary support from the Penn Hills administration, as well Darren Kennedy, Penn Hills’ director of special education, to host the special day for the participants at Yuhas-McGinley Stadium. This is the fourth year the games have been held at the high school.

Aside from showing their athletic ability, the participants in the Special Olympics day get to interact with the athletes at Penn Hills. With the coordination of the athletic department, many Penn Hills athletes from various sports teams showed their support as they volunteered for the event.

The Penn Hills athletes aided in measuring jumps and throws, as well as ran with competitors as a sign of encouragement.

Football player Harrison Bash ran alongside a competitor in the 25- and 50-meter dashes.

“It’s a great thing for the older kids to help out with those who could use an extra hand. The kids are wonderful with our special needs kids. After school, if they go to college, maybe some them would want to get into the special needs field,” Francis said.

There were close to 20 Penn Hills athletes from the football, soccer and volleyball teams who volunteered. The athletes included Autumn Blair, Julianna Weston, Sierra Ward and Sophia DeVito. Madison Banks, Yasmine Logan and Sierra Hankey also volunteered for the event.

Jonah Silverman, Andy Plowden, Dylan Bennett, Bash and Rick Martin rooted on those participating in the event. The rest of the athletes who volunteered includes Taylor Clayborn, Ashley Lloyd, Eliza Brennan, Amanda McCann, Dayvona Hogan and Katie Russell.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.


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