Some Very Special Olympians Compete at Camelot Education’s Therapeutic Day School of Mount Prospect
Camelot Education’s Therapeutic Day School of Mount Prospect is celebrating some very special student-athletes. Twelve students from the school near Chicago competed in Special Olympics events, many of them winning medals and three students qualifying for statewide competitions. But for the students, participating is about much more than winning medals.
Camelot of Mount Prospect provides academic and therapeutic services for children, adolescents and young adults with extraordinary needs including emotional disabilities and autism. By competing in these games, students gain confidence, skill-building, self-affirmation and all the positive effects that accompany those attributes.
“Having our therapeutic schools participate in the Special Olympics is a point of pride for Camelot Education,” said Deputy Superintendent Theresa Mortl Smith. “When a child is at Camelot, we are helping them at school, but also supporting the home and facilitating opportunities in their communities. The Special Olympics is a great example of how Camelot partners with an organization to help children grow, thrive and experience success in a community environment. The look of pride that is on our children’s faces when they participate is priceless. Camelot staff volunteer their time to travel with the children and to coach them. We have never had to ask for coaches. Our staff enjoys the experiences so much they want to remain a part of the experience.”
For the school’s executive director, Chip Hickman, involvement with the program is personal.
“Special Olympics is very important to our campus and to me,” Hickman said. “It was my experience as a Special Olympics volunteer in 6th grade that led me to want to serve people with disabilities. So in a way being involved with Special Olympics at a young age had a major impact on my life and it’s why I do the job I do.”
Students participated in two separate events, one in December in basketball skills, the school’s first time taking part in that event. Then, on January 4, students participated in the snowshoeing competition.
Students earned one gold, one silver and one bronze medal in basketball while scoring two gold and two silver medals in snowshoeing. Jorge Tapia won the basketball gold medal and is eligible to go to the state games in March at Illinois State University. David McDonough and Justin Cashin won gold for snowshoeing and are eligible to go to the state games at Chestnut Mountain in Galena, IL in February.
“Now that we’ve launched this program at our campus, we hope to have more athletes participate in track and field events,” Hickman said. “We are expecting to participate in the 50-meter run, 100-meter run, 100-meter walk, tennis ball throw, softball throw and the javelin. We are so proud of our athletes for their outstanding performances.”
None of the participants have to pay for these events and activities; they are funded through events like the Polar Plunge, the Law Enforcement Run and others to pay for the locations, the food, the medals and the ribbons participants receive.
Mount Prospect teacher Tom Petrik organized the team. His son has participated in Special Olympics for 18 years in volleyball, basketball, floor hockey, soccer, and track and field. He is an enthusiastic Special Olympics booster.
“We appreciate everything our families and staff at Mount Prospect do to help raise funds as we increase the number of events we participate in,” Petrik said. “I encourage everyone to register for the Polar Plunge Plunge, which is held at 25 locations across Illinois, and support our kids”
The first International Special Olympics Games took place in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Since then, Special Olympics has grown to become the largest program of its kind. According to the organization’s website: The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
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