Friendships on the Field at Special Olympics Festival

Friday morning, Clairemont High School welcomed students from nine elementary schools for a Young Athletes Festival, part of a new partnership between the San Diego Unified School District and the Special Olympics.

"We have students with disabilities and we have students who are typically developing," said Katrina McClanahan, the Lead Adaptive P.E. Teacher for SDUSD. "We’ve come together through this Special Olympics curriculum, and we are having this big culminating event."

"What we’re doing here is working with school-aged kids two to seven," said Brian Richter, San Diego Regional Director for the Special Olympics. "They’ve been doing this for a few weeks — a couple months actually — at their schools, and today was about celebrating that."

To host the 300 kids, around 100 volunteers were needed.

"There were students here at 7:30 in the morning," said McClanahan, "setting up all these tents, setting up all this equipment. They were cutting oranges, and they were really working hard to have everything happen today. They’re now working with the students, and they are helping them with all the activities and the stations, too."

All of the students were paired up with peers from their schools — including Maggie and Max.

"It’s fun," said Maggie, "because he’s very active, and he’s just very fun."

Joel and Braden were also teamed up as buddies.

"It’s more fun like a team," said Braden. "We help each other by working together."

"We sort of feel like family," said Joel. "When we did the hurdles, we told each other when to jump and when to go."

"It’s wonderful," said Richter. "It’s part of what we call unified sports, and it’s bringing people with and without intellectual disabilities together — to celebrate each other’s capabilities and break down those barriers that really shouldn’t be there."

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