Special Olympics of St. John Offers Sports Development Clinic in Reserve
By Angel Thompson, NOLA.com
April 7, 2014
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH - “Use your fingertips, think, focus, … steady, … step and throw,” Special Olympics Coach Judi Hotard advised her group of Special Athletes as they prepared to throw a javelin. “Got it? Ready?”
“Yes!” many athletes exclaimed as others smiled and nodded their heads. As each athlete threw the javelin - long distances as well as short distances - volunteers, coaches, parents, and other athletes eagerly cheered them on.
The javelin throw was among the popular activities at the St. John Special Olympics’ first sports development clinic April 5 at Regala Park in Reserve. The St. John Parish Recreation Department worked with the United Way of St. John and the St. Charles Special Olympics to offer the clinic to help people with intellectual disabilities learn new sports skills and improve individual sport performance, participate in individual and team sports, build friendships and have fun with partners who trained as clinic volunteers.
Other sports were horseshoes, basketball, and bocce.
The clinic was as much a social program as it was an athletic program, said Johnika Gayden, who has been a volunteer with the St. John Recreation Department for about 10 years.
“The collaboration for this program was outstanding,” Gayden said. “Many volunteers from our local high schools, the recreation department, and community members stepped up. They were excited to have the opportunity to help the athletes develop sports ability as well as to develop friendships with the athletes.”
We really want more students in the parish to get involved in Special Olympic events. Debra Poche
Debra Poche, St. John Parish Assistant Director of Recreation, said she hopes the clinic will serve as a building block to develop positive relationships among staff, participants, and volunteers. Volunteers were encouraged to keep in contact with their special partners, openly include people with intellectual disabilities in their daily lives, and encourage colleagues, friends, and family to join the Special Olympics movement and volunteer.
Poche said the St. John Recreation Department also wants to increase awareness of the Special Olympics in the St. John school system.
“We really want more students in the parish to get involved in the Special Olympic events,” Poche said.
Athletes were encouraged to sign up and participate in year-round Special Olympics activities and continue to improve their individual performance and recruit their friends to get involved.
Logan Boynton, 12, of Garyville was among several athletes who enjoyed the clinic. He has been involved with the Special Olympics for four years, as a member of the track and field team and T-ball. The clinic gave him the opportunity to learn a new sport, horseshoes. He seemed to be a natural at the event. On his second attempt, he threw a ringer.
“Very good!” his mother, Summer Stevenson, said, as she gave her son a high five after his stellar horseshoes performance. “I think he has a new favorite sport. He really loves the Special Olympics.”