Exceptional Student Education teacher Bridget Madero had her students well-prepared for the recent Special Olympics Track and Field School Roster Program meet at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland
Madero, an instructor at Crystal Lake Middle School in Pompano Beach, oversaw the four-day-a-week training for her 15 student-athletes, who were excited to perform in front of a large crowd of supporters. They were among 600 student-athletes with intellectual and development disabilities, all of whom received a warm reception.
“Every year, our kids get pumped up for this event, and they were out every day practicing and training,” Madero said. “We have a real good group of kids who trained very hard and looked forward to competing. I’m very excited about this event. … This has become my passion.”
This marked the sixth consecutive year the event has been held, and it has grown so large that the Special Olympics Track and Field School Roster Program includes a south venue at Cooper City High School along with the north one at Douglas.
The Special Olympics athletes were separated into elementary, middle and high school categories. They were able to compete in track events including the 25-meter walk, 25-meter assisted walk, 25-meter wheelchair race, 50-meter dash, 100-meter dash and the 4-by-50 relay team race.
Field events consisted of the hula toss, tennis ball throw, shot put throw, softball throw, bean bag competition, standing long jump and the wheelchair slalom. Every participant received a ribbon, and lunch was provided before the students headed back to their respective schools.
The Special Olympics of Broward County organization is headquartered on the Davie campus of Nova Southeastern University and serves 3,100 athletes. Director Linda Mills was impressed with the reception they received from the student body and faculty at both Cooper City and Douglas high schools.
Douglas hosted the north event for the fourth consecutive year.
“The entire junior varsity and varsity football teams came out to help coach and cheer the kids on. It was the most amazing thing,” Mills said. “Other students came in and out of classes to join us. This is a Special Olympics event, and we hope the school’s students become part of our regular community-based programs.”
Ann Scharf, a teacher assistant at Tedder Elementary School in Pompano Beach, has been a big part of Special Olympics for more than 25 years. The Pompano Beach resident and her athletes were eager to compete and have fun.
“This is our second year competing, and we had 23 student-athletes come out, ages 8-11,” Scharf said. “We practiced three times a week during recess, timed them during runs and prepared them for the relays. This is something the children really enjoy, and our wish is to get them to stay involved with Special Olympics all year.”
Perhaps the greatest benefits received were to the many volunteers from both high schools.
“This is good for our players to take some time out of their lives to put some smiles on the faces of these kids,” said Willis May, who coaches football at Douglas. “We have about 100 players on the team, and everyone including our trainers, managers and coaches came out and enjoyed this. Broward Special Olympics does a fantastic job, and we’re just trying to help.”