The morning of J.S. Robinson Elementary School’s latest Special Olympics game day was freezing cold, but the athletes’ smiles were as warm as could be once they started to play.
Close to 100 students participated in this year’s Special Olympics game day, which is open to students in all of the school’s grade levels with activities that vary depending on the age group. Students in the pre-K though first grade tested their foundational skills, such as jumping, catching, throwing and running. Students in second through fifth grade, who get to pick their events each year, chose to do football and track and field activities. Everything took place on the school’s track and pavilion areas.
The idea was born last year and inspired by similar programming at Strawberry Crest High School, where Robinson ESE 1 teacher Maria Garcia previously worked.
“When I worked at Strawberry Crest High School, we did it there and I had heard of other schools doing it,” Garcia said. “But it was always mainly older kids participating, so our school reached out to have a Special Olympics representative talk to us about programs they offered for younger children. We thought it was a great way for our kids to do other things than academics at our school.”
Last year, roughly 50 students participated in events and around 30 spectators came out to watch. The two sports picked by older students for last year’s event were basketball and soccer.
Student-athletes from Durant and Plant City High Schools stopped by Robinson on Feb. 21 to help with the games and encourage the elementary school’s athletes as they competed. Others who helped make the event possible include Robinson’s PlayPals and volunteers, Dr. Neil Weisman, Steve MacDonald, O’Brien Food Service, Florida Southern Roofing, Mariah Jones of Apple Eye Photography and Domino’s of Plant City.