Camelot Students Take Home Medals at Special Olympics
This year the children at Camelot’s Northwest Center for Autism (NWCA) participated in two Special Olympic events, marching away with five gold medals and hearts filled with pride and confidence.
According to Jennifer Johnson, the therapeutic school’s principal, having students participate in the Special Olympics is an on-going tradition.
“I’ve been here since 2009 and we’ve done it every year,” she said. “We have at least a handful that receives gold medals. It’s a very proud moment for the students, their families and friends and the coaches.”
Nine NWCA students participated this year in two events; five in basketball and four in snowshoeing.
Basketball is one of the major Special Olympics sports. Snowshoeing has become a favorite outdoor winter activity for enthusiasts of all ages, and is now part winter Special Olympics. The ages of the competitors ranged from ages 11 to 17.
One student won a gold medal in the basketball competition and four won silver medals. In the snowshoeing event there were four gold medalists, three silver medal winners and one bronze.
The gold medalists all move on to the finals.
The snowshoeing finals will be held in Galena, Illinois, from Feb, 2nd to Feb, 4th. The basketball competition finals will be held in Normal, Illinois from March 11th to 13th.
The students who participated, have been practicing and training since October, Principal Johnson said.
“They have weekly practice session with their coaches, who volunteer their time on the weekends,” Johnson said. “Every student must have a coach who also attends the events.”
To qualify for the Special Olympics, the competitors have to have been diagnosed with a special needs disability and be enrolled in a therapeutic day school. Johnson said competing in the events changes their lives.
“The Special Olympics means the world to them,” she said. “Many don’t have well-developed social skills or sports skills. To qualify they have to have shown growth in their physical abilities. It’s very inspiring for them and for everyone involved.”