What started as a way to let 30 San Benito High School Life
Skills students have a chance to enjoy competing in Olympic-style
events has grown 10-fold and has expanded to include Gilroy
participants. Full article
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What started as a way to let 30 San Benito High School Life Skills students have a chance to get exercise and enjoy competing in Olympic-style events has grown 10-fold in six years, with the Baler Gifted Games expected to welcome 300 athletes from two counties Friday to Andy Hardin Field.
From 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., special-needs athletes ranging in age from preschool to high school, will compete in events such as the 50- and 100-yard dash, the long jump and throwing events.
“To think it started with just 30 of our Life Skills students and now we have expanded it to not only include Hollister School District but also the Gilroy community,” said organizer Tania De Leon, who teaches at SBHS. “It’s been absolutely amazing to see the support we have received from the community.”
The Gifted Games began as an in-house activity designed to give local high school students a chance to compete in athletic events that normally were not available to them. Also, with no Special Olympics chapter in the county, life skills teachers and sports medicine trainer Dave Tari felt a local version of the games would be beneficial.
Participation has grown exponentially in recent years, with the games expanding to include athletes from around San Benito County two years ago and the addition of athletes from southern Santa Clara County last year. Seventy-five students competed two years ago, nearly double that showed up last year and the numbers are expected to double again this year.
De Leon and Mona Trevino – one of the Baler Gifted Games founders and now a teacher in Gilroy – have discussed alternating the hosting duties on a yearly basis and changing the name to The Gifted Games.
“We are also having a plaque made to give to the community that has the most participants,” De Leon said. “This year we have the most participants so we will take the plaque.”
Support from the community and the high school has helped the event grow, according to organizers. A number of San Benito High School teachers bring their morning classes to the event to sit in the stands and cheer on the participants.
“It’s been absolutely amazing to see the support we have received from the community,” De Leon said. “I get phone calls and e-mails on a regular basis from people wanting to help. The kids are so grateful when I tell them how much money people and businesses have donated.”
Various groups will donate their time at Friday’s event and the Baler Booster club is donating lunches to participants and coaches.
Samuel Sauer, a special education specialist at Gilroy High School, called the event “a true example of surrounding communities working together, with more than 200 volunteers expected on the day of the event.”
De Leon concurred, saying, “What a great community we live in!”
The Baler Gifted Games will begin with a parade and opening ceremony at Andy Hardin Field starting at 9:30 a.m. Events will take place throughout the morning through 12:40 p.m., at which time lunch will be served and awards presented. For more information about the games, including volunteer information, contact Tania De Leon at 637-5831.