Special Olympics – A West High Tradition


Principal Jeremy Mitchell and senior Jacob Dennison light the opening ceremony torch.

Three hundred and seventy two volunteers will fill the gymnasium on Monday, Feb 23 for the annual Special Olympics Basketball Tournament.

Science Academic Support teacher, Susan Anderson social studies teacher Annie Wayland and senior Claire Webster began planning the event over the summer of 2014.

“Annie Wayland and I are both co-sponsors for Special Olympics, but we split the larger events. I take Special Olympics, and she takes the other spring events. This will be my second year doing Special Olympics,” Anderson said. “We started getting things finalized starting in the summer — T-Shirt designs, applications, scheduling DJs and more,” Anderson said.

There are multiple ways students can participate and contribute in the Special Olympics, each with different roles and responsibilities. Students do not need to have prior experience to participate.

“Anybody, any student can do it. Without any experience. We go through training, and then … It’s about being here, hanging out with an athlete, then going to victory village, dancing, eating candy, and everyone has a great time,” Anderson said.

When signing up, students rank their preferred position out of the five available positions: Buddy, Buddy Captain, Unified Partner, Referee and Victory Village member. Although not on the application for the event, students may also opt to help set up the event, or help with lunch.

“A lot of students will be buddies, which means they will be partnered up with an athlete on the day of the event.  Buddies will be assigned to each team, and students who show more responsibility can apply to be Buddy Captains.  If students have basketball experience, they can be referees, and there are also unified partners which play with the athletes.  Students could also be lunch crew members which involves less interaction, or at least they could definitely help setting up the event,” Webster said. “The bottom line is there’s a way for any student to contribute.”

This year, freshman Anna Chen will join the number of participating students. She is going to be a Buddy.

“At my old school, we also had kids with disabilities, who I grew up with.  To me, this event seems like a good chance to interact with those kids again,” Chen said. “I’m a little nervous, but I think it’s awesome how the entire school comes together to make something like this happen.”