Locals shine at Special Olympics

GIRARD — Hubbard resident Debbie Sackett said she was “more than thrilled” when her son, Ronald Sackett, took part in the 50-meter walk and softball throw May 13 at the eighth annual Special Olympics Area 11 track and field competition.

Ronald Sackett was among more than 330 special-needs children and adults ages 8 to 60 on nine teams from eight Ohio counties, including Trumbull and Mahoning, gathered at Girard Arrowhead Stadium for various track and field events.

”Seeing my son and the others here having so much fun is so exciting. The coaches who work with them are great,” Debbie Sackett said.

She said the team from Fairhaven School and Workshop in Niles has practiced for weeks for the different events.

Ronald Sackett said he chose the 500-meter walk and softball throw ”because those are the ones I am good at.”

”I love this. I get to see all my friends,” he said.

Bo Greene, head coach at Fairhaven and local event coordinator, said many of the participants took part in the 50-,100- and 1,500-meter races.

”This really lets them show what they can do. They practice just like any school would,” Greene said.

“A lot can be learned from these guys. I mean not only just in sports, but in life too. It’s not all about getting the gold,” he said.

Greene said former Girard Superintendent Joseph Jeswald approached Fairhaven eight years ago about hosting the Special Olympics in Girard.

The event kicked off with an Olympic parade of athletes and a balloon release, with an awards ceremony concluding the day’s activities.

Jeswald said the event has doubled in size since it began eight years ago,

”At that time, the stadium was being renovated. When it was done in 2010, I contacted Carol Kirsh at Fairhaven telling her we wanted to host the local Special Olympics at the stadium. Everyone from the school district, the Rotary and Fairhaven got together to make the event happen,” he said.

Three Fairhaven team members earned medals for javelin throw. While Adia Bury of Niles won second place, Rebecca Hostettler of Niles and Jamie Barela both received third-place honors.

Bury, who also competed in 100-meter dash and relay, said, ”It is my dream to come to this. I like the javelin throw the most.”

She said she does a lot of stretching and practice throwing to be ready for the javelin competition.

Hostettler, who also was in 100-meter relay and 200-meter run, said she practices for javelin with Bury by learning the best way to position her arms and body for throwing.

More than 150 volunteers from the Girard schools and area community service groups and businesses assisted at the event and cheered on competitors and awarded medals.

The first International Special Olympics Games were held in Chicago in 1968. The games began with the idea for a one-time Olympic-style athletic competition for people with special needs.