Prior to the 2017 Special Olympics Spring Games of the South Shore, the district held a pep rally to honor its participating athletes: Morgan Barry, Conor Brennan, Daniel Burns, Claire Constantino and Donovan Zecchini. All five had trained hard for two months prior, working with coaches Dave Claps and Patty Whitehouse as well as several student mentors.
More than 100 people packed the middle school auditorium for the rally to honor the athletes. The high school and middle school bands played onstage while youth cheerleaders performed, led by high school student Marissa Esposito, and Islip Booster Club President Terry Going presented each athlete with a certificate of participation. Following the celebration, the attendees moved to the cafeteria for carnival games provided by the high school’s National Honor Society, a photo booth and banner decorating by the middle school’s National Junior Honor Society, frame making by SEPTA, pennant decorating by local Girl Scouts troops, and refreshments served by Islip teachers.
A bus departed early in the morning of May 7 carrying 40 Islip student volunteers, led by Kerri Schmalaker, to cheer on Islip’s Special Olympians as they competed for medals at the big event, held at Bellport High School.
“As our athletes walked in the opening ceremony parade with their nine mentors, you could hear the roar from the Islip cheering section, all dressed in purple and waving rally towels,” said Superintendent Susan Schnebel. “The smiles on the faces of our athletes were priceless.”
Throughout the day, the Islip five competed in several track and field events, including the 50-meter, 100-meter, 800-meter, shot put and 4x100 relay, with their coaches and student mentors at their sides, then stood on the podium with a sense of pride and accomplishment to receive their medals.
“The entire Islip community rallied together to make this special event happen, but the real heroes were all the athletes who competed in the Special Olympics,” Schnebel said.