Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sports Day

It’s an incredible sight. It’s bound to touch the most sensitive part of your heart.
Children gather from all the elementary schools throughout the school district for the annual Sports Day, which is always held near the end of the school year. This year the event took place May 15th at Alta High School.

Every year all of the kids who qualify to participate in Sports Day gather to compete in three events. What is it that specifically makes them qualify? These are the sweet children with special needs. They may have physical, mental, emotional, or any other sort of special needs that may somehow make their learning a difficult task beyond that of the ordinary struggles other children their ages may have. These children come together to compete in a mini Special Olympics, if you will. It’s a day they all look forward to.

Of course an event like this takes a lot of planning on not only the school district’s part, but for all those who help to make the event possible. This means, Alta High School students and faculty, PTA’s from every individual school-- who not only help to do the judging, they measure distances, time individual events, chase softballs, give out ribbons, to name only a few. Alta High School usually hosts the event; PTA and parents run the concession stands. As you can see, it takes tremendous effort to pull this off. It’s gratifying to see the support of the not only the teachers of these children, but the aids, principals, and other student body come out to cheer their fellow students on.

To begin, all the children line up for the opening ceremony. Each school brings their school banner and they wear their school t-shirt with pride. Then they all parade onto the track, waving to the crowd as any true Olympian would. The crowd cheers and applauds for every single child.
Some children come in braces, some in wheel chairs, others who are shy—hold onto their parents or teachers hand for reassurance, while others who may feel more bold, walk onto the track with the thrill of competition shining in their eyes.

After all the children have come onto the track, there is a moment of silence. Music over the loud speaker begins to play. The flags are raised. The entire football stadium sings The Star Spangled Banner. To see the crowd singing the National Anthem with this special group of children brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Love for my country, love for these children, gratitude to all these people who have put this wonderful day together—it’s inspiring.

And then—LET THE GAMES BEGIN! So many children are going here and there to get to each competition on time. Amazingly enough, there is a method to the madness and it all comes together beautifully.

Some who read this may be thinking, wow, it’s sounds like a lot of work. I assure you, it is. It takes unbelievable organizational skills to pull this off but if you could only see the looks on each of those faces…

I walked around last Friday, following my son. This was his last year to participate. Next year he’ll be moving on to Jr. High. New experiences await him. So, it was with a little bit of sadness that I realized this was our last opportunity to participate. My son has gained some valuable lessons from Sports Day through the years. Lessons that I hope will make him a better man. Root for everyone, give it your all, do your best, be happy for other’s successes, practice, practice practice,-- I could go on… I am sure you know what I mean. We have had some good times and great experiences. There have been excellent teaching opportunities with Sports Day.

That day, I watched in awe as I saw such looks of determination to run the fastest, jump the furthest, and throw the hardest. I was touched to see athletes finish with such courage, giving their very all to succeed; really competing with only themselves. For in the end, everyone would win a ribbon with each heat be it first place or fifth. Every child was a winner.

I saw children step up to starting lines, get frightened and turn away, only to turn back and jump with all their might. I saw children who missed the starting signal of a race but then ran with all their heart to the very end never once slowing their pace even though they knew they were sure to come in last place. I noticed those who fell but courageously stood and carried on never giving up hope to the very end. And there were the parents and aids that cheered their kids in wheelchairs on as they walked beside them all the way to the finish line.
What heart-warming sights. The entire day was filled with them. I hated to see it come to an end.

I have learned so much from all of those sweet children. I watched them laugh, and celebrate their success, and I watched them persevere with a determination that I have not known within myself. They never gave up even if they felt beaten.

It’s my hope that I can carry the memory of Sports Day in my heart; that I will always remember the lessons I have learned from my young heroes. So that each time I feel like I am beaten, the race is too hard, or that I have fallen too many times, I will think of Sports Day and find a renewed strength from the example those amazing children set for me. I hope to rise with a determination to make it to the finish line, no matter what, giving it my very all.

It was a glorious day and I felt like I had walked among angels.


Michele Ashman Bell said...

That must have been quite a thrill to be part of such a great event and celebration for these kids.

Just like the participants we are all doing the best we can, even though we have our shortcomings and weaknesses. As long as we give our all, we will make it to the finish line with honor.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Wonderful post, Jeri. =) The son of one of my husband's cousins participated in this event that same day. Little Joshie was born with Down's Syndrome. He has captured all of our hearts and he is such a positive influence. We love him dearly.