Westerville Olympic Experience Draws Athletes, Dignitaries

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Dignitaries gathered on Friday evening August 26, to kick off the Westerville Olympic Experience…A Sports Spectacular. Pictured speaking is State Representative Anne Gonzales. Seated is Dr. Dan Good, Superintendent of Westerville City Schools; and Westerville Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi. Standing in the background is Olympic torch bearer and Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich.

Local officials and community members gathered in front of Hanby Arts Magnet School on Friday evening, August 26, to kick off the first annual Westerville Olympic Experience…A Sports Spectacular. Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich ran with an Olympic torch down State Street during Fourth Friday activities in Westerville to mark the beginning of the event. At the same time, Special Olympic torch bearers ran at each Westerville high school home football game to commemorate what is hoped will be an annual occurrence.

Hosted by Westerville Special Olympics athletes – with the assistance of Westerville Parks and Recreation Department employees – the goal was to give families and individuals a chance to experience many different sports in one day at one location. The event was also designed to raise awareness of Westerville Special Olympics. The Sports Spectacular, which took place at the Westerville Sports Complex on August 27, was presented by OhioHealth. All proceeds benefited Westerville Special Olympics.

Westerville Superintendent Dan Good said “Our hope is that this creates a window of understanding, a chance to have your eyes opened and your perspectives widened. Too often, people with intellectual disabilities are framed by negative stereotypes and misconceptions. A significant part of the Special Olympics mission is educating people about the dignity and gifts of all people. For people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is a place where they have an opportunity to participate in their communities and develop belief in themselves – a gateway to empowerment, competence, acceptance and joy…Disabilities are just another manifestation of global diversity and our support of the Special Olympics demonstrates our collective commitment to the fundamental principles of dignity and equality for all human beings.”

This past June, the Special Olympics World Summer Games were held in Athens, Greece. Nearly 7,000 athletes from 170 countries participated. This was a fitting memorial to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who 48 years ago, began a day camp for young people with disabilities to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities. Shriver believed that exceptional children can be exceptional athletes and as a result of her vision and advocacy, Special Olympics now serves more three million people with disabilities in 200 nations.