Special Champions Honored
School committee recognizes Tewksbury Special Olympians
Special education coordinator Jan Fuller organized the event, which began with a reception before the meeting. The students were individually recognized for their excellence and then each team was presented with their own champions banner with the year, and room for 10 more years of excellence.
High school special education teacher Patrick Calligan began a Special Olympic program at the school four years ago. After reading about the program in the local paper, Ryan school special education teacher Sandy Ferrara contacted Calligan about how to go about starting the program at the Ryan school. She said rather than just give her the information, he welcomed her and her students to join his team.
"For four years I have been in attendance, each and every year it gets bigger and better," Calligan said about the Special Olympic games day. "It is a special day that permeates through the kids for the rest of the year."
In the 1960's, Eunice Kennedy Shriver began a day camp for people with intellectual disabilities. In 1968 she organized the first international Olympic Games, held in Chicago, wit 1,000 athletes from the United States in Canada participated.
Today, led by her son Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics is the world's largest year-round program of athletic competition for people with intellectual disabilities. Close to 3.3 million athletes participate, with athletes in every state of the U.S. and in over 160 countries around the world.
Ferrara reflected how much support helped make this program possible, through the dedication of the paraeducators and the enthusiasm of the parents.
"Our motto is 'do your best'," Calligan said.