Oct. 21 marked the date of the 29th Special Olympics Maryland Fall Sports Festival that was hosted at Mount St. Mary’s University. The event, hosted by the Mount’s Office of Social Justice, is the largest event offered by the office throughout the entire year.
The event kicked off at nine in the morning with the opening ceremony, hosted and led by Michael Heup, an athlete from Anne Arundel County, Md. Heup was one of many SOMD athletes who competed at the Fall Fest who are also set to compete in Seattle during the first week of July for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. He was able to introduce the counties represented throughout the day and acknowledge the other athletes competing in the 2018 games.
Mount President Timothy Trainor led the athletes in reciting the Special Olympics motto: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”During the ceremony, President Trainor was honored on behalf of the Mount for their partnership with SOMD by being presented with a collage that included photos from the event throughout the prior 28 years of competition at the university to be hung in his office.
About 450 athletes competed in a variety of events including: tennis, cross country, cycling, flag football and powerlifting. In addition, a new program for young athletes was added this year.
On the volunteer side of things, the Mount community had over 350 students volunteer for the large event throughout the PNC Sports Complex. To Mount students, volunteering meant participating in giving the athletes the best opportunity for competition.
“It is so special to be a part of the competition just to see how the Mount hosts athletes that are so full of joy and competition,” says senior Mary Hearon, who was on the OSJ Management Team for the event as the Volunteer Lead. “There is something so special about watching athletes who train so hard for their competition to be able to compete in these different competitions and being a part of that.”
The volunteers were split up throughout the event in terms of venues and teams. Some student volunteers would be placed at event venues with specific tasks, and others would be a part of a team to set up, break down or hand out lunches or awards.
“The event has been something I have looked forward to every year and is one of my favorite parts of the Office of Social Justice just because of how amazing it is to be a part of,” said Hearon.
The Mount plans to continue the tradition and bond it has formed with SOMD and encourages all students to get involved. The planning for the event begins in OSJ starting as early as August each year, to give ample time for preparation to make it the best day possible for the athletes.