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Community Comes Together to Support Special Olympic Student Athletes

October 16, 2019 - Livermore, CA - “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." With those words, Marylin Avenue Elementary student Evan Douma opened the 2019-20 Tri-Valley Elementary Special Olympics on October 3, 2019 at Granada High School. A week later, Granada High School student Jason Adams recited the same Special Olympics oath at the start of the 2019-20 Secondary games of the 2019-20 Tri-Valley Special Olympics Northern California Schools Program. 

Student athletes representing the school districts of Castro Valley, Dublin, Livermore, and Pleasanton accompanied officers from the Livermore Police Department as they led the parade with the Olympic torch. As the Granada High School band played from the stands, athletes marched through a tunnel of support created by Mayor Marchand, City Council Member Munro, Livermore School Board Trustees, Superintendent Kelly Bowers, administrators, cheerleaders and students, teachers and families. 

The football field buzzed with excitement as athletes threaded through dribbling cones, tested their goal-kicking skills, and competed in games between schools. Teachers, paraeducators, and student assistants cheered on participants, and high fives were exchanged as every effort was celebrated. Nancie Whiteside, Adapted Physical Educator of the Year and this year’s event coordinator stated, “It’s profoundly gratifying to see our students with special needs have the opportunity to compete against peers and experience the thrill of competition. Our athletes take away a true sense of accomplishment from their experience.” Nicole Remy, a student in the Adult Transition Program, has looked forward to the games every year since elementary school. “What I love most is to meet new people and make new friends. I love the competition and I’m proud of myself,” said Remy.

Over 30 schools from the Tri-Valley participated in the soccer games this year. Having everyone invested in the games, as participants or supporters, reinforced the idea of inclusiveness and encouragement. LVJUSD Director of Special Education Frank Selvaggio stated, “If you have never been to a Special Olympics in Livermore you are missing out on one of the best events of the year for our community. This year’s soccer competition at Granada High School featured hundreds of athletes and was by far the most festive event we have had thus far. I look forward to the remaining Special Olympics competitions that will occur throughout the year." In February 2020, Dublin will host basketball, and Pleasanton will host the track and field events in April. 

Livermore Superintendent Kelly Bowers stated, “I find it incredibly heartwarming to see families celebrating their athlete’s efforts with hugs, words of encouragement, and fist bumps. This event is inspiring and we are proud to host the Special Olympics and support the incredible partnership of our teachers and schools who come together every year to celebrate students.” 

The games were made possible through a partnership with Special Olympics of Northern California and Tri-Valley Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).