Students Organize Annual Special Olympics

For the second year in a row, MHS hosted Special Olympics. However, there was a major difference this year: it was led by students. 

Lexi Kossmann, senior, spearheaded the organization of the Friday, April 21, event. 

“Last year when I was a buddy, I really loved the experience, so I wanted to help recreate that experience this year,” Kossmann said. 

Elliott Jorgensen

Kossmann said she was in charge of fundraising, t-shirt designs, pairing buddies with the athletes and prizes. Though this was stressful, Kossmann has people assisting her. 

“I’m just trying to delegate tasks as best as I can because I can’t do it all by myself,” Kossmann said.

The turnout in buddy registration was greater this year than last year, allowing for alternate buddies in the absence of one, Kossmann said. 

Buddies are students who volunteer to assist and guide athletes throughout the day as well as keep them company. 

It’s so important to get these kids well versed with other kids and making friends while having a fun day for themselves.

— Lexi Kossmann

“It’s so exciting to see all the interest in this event,” Kossmann said. “It’s so important to get these kids well versed with other kids and making friends while having a fun day for themselves.”

Assisting Kossmann in planning the event was Lauren Lakamp, senior. Lakamp has been involved with Best Buddies and the PE Mentoring program since her freshman year. So, when Coach Felicia Durst, P.E. teacher, pitched the idea, Lakamp knew she wanted to get involved. 

“Many students may not have had the opportunity to meet and interact with many of our SSD students, but a big event like Special Olympics helps to begin fostering those new connections,” Lakamp said. “Something I’m truly lucky to do every day.”

Lakamp said the event was an all hands on deck effort. 

“It’s so awesome to see so many people eager and willing to take on a leadership role to make Special Olympics happen,” she said.

Lakamp said she urges students to join the event in the future in any way possible. 

“The relationships you form with the athletes are so instrumental for our athletes, but I’ve also found that these relationships also make a huge impact on our volunteers as well,” Lakamp said. “To feel accepted and celebrated for who you truly are is so important.”

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  • With the lighting of the torch, the Second Annual Special Olympics at MHS began on Friday, April 21.

    Media by Parker Brandt
  • AFJROTC presents colors at the beginning of the event. ROTC was one of a multitude of clubs volunteering at the event.

    Media by Parker Brandt
  • At the start of the Special Olympics, students from each school run in the opening races. Fifteen schools, including MHS, participated in the events throughout the day, and students from each school also competed in a closing relay.

    Media by Parker Brandt
  • Tavian Kerber, senior, was one of many volunteers for the Special Olympics. Volunteers worked at individual events or stations spread around the football field and concession stand.

    Media by Parker Brandt
  • Anna Sainato, senior, and her athlete participate in bowling in Victory Village. Full of games and activities for athletes and their buddies, Victory Village was designated for activities in between competing.

    Media by Parker Brandt
  • Katie Bolt, sophomore, works as a volunteer at the long jump event during the Special Olympics. Athletes soar to victories and ribbons after competing all day.

    Media by Parker Brandt
  • Mookie the Mustang hands out high fives at the Special Olympics. He was one of many characters and speicial guests who made appearances throughout the day, like Fredbird, Anna and Elsa, and an assortment of other Disney princesses and characters portrayed by Marquette Theater Company.

    Media by Parker Brandt
  • One of many special guests to visit the Special Olympics was the St. Louis Cardinal’s mascot, Fredbird. He posed with athletes and buddies throughout the day.

    Media by Parker Brandt
  • Athletes run in the final relay at the conclusion of the Special Olympics’ events. This final race brings the event to a close after a day of competing in various running, jumping and throwing events.

    Media by Parker Brandt
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Lakamp said many students who receive SSD services spend their entire day in the same classrooms with the same students, so getting outside of the classroom and making these relationships with other peers is all the more special for them.

“Last year was so much fun, and now that we’ve been a lot more student-led this year, it will be amazing to see all of our hard work put into action,” Lakamp said. 

Durst was the head organizer last year and remained heavily involved.

“I felt our athletes deserved a home event so I asked for MHS to host a track and field event when Dr. Hankins became the principal and he excitedly said yes,” Durst said. 

This year, there were 100 more athletes than last year and more money fundraised for the event. However, the purpose remains the same. 

Many students say they sign up to help the athletes but then realize how much impact the athletes have on them,” Durst said. “Seeing the faces of the athletes and volunteers the day of the event is so inspiring.”