Courtesy of Gabrielle Reyes
On Friday, Feb. 21, Gaither High School will be hosting their annual Stampede, Gaither’s version of Special Olympics.
Stampede is an event in which about 350 special needs students, or “athletes,” come to Gaither to compete in Olympic events.
“Stampede is a Special Olympics training day, so we run it just like a Special Olympics. It’s the same events run the same way so that when the students that go on to participate at the county, the area, the state level, they will have had an opportunity to know what it feels like and what’s expected of them, because it’s like a big practice session,” said Lynda Taylor, a special needs teacher at Gaither.
Florida’s Special Olympics requires parents to be involved because transportation is not provided and is held on a Saturday. This keeps some students from being able to participate.
According to Taylor, when she takes her students to Special Olympics at other schools, she may have five students participate. Gaither has almost 50 students in the special needs program and all 50 will participate in Stampede.
“We have 18 schools participating this year, so that’s several hundred kids that, if we didn’t do this event, would not have the opportunity to participate in the Special Olympics event,” said Taylor.
Gaither students can participate by being an athlete’s “buddy” and cheering them on throughout the day.
“My favorite part of Stampede is being with my buddy and making it a special day for them,” junior Grace Hanlin said.
Special Olympics is a day that gives the disabled students a chance to be the stars. Taylor says that after Stampede is done, all of her students talk about the things they accomplished.
“I’ve had over the years many students who had volunteered on that day tell me that it changed their whole perception on what it means to be disabled and their view of somebody with a disability… They realize that even people with disabilities have special unique talents and we shouldn’t just discount them,” Taylor said.
Students interested in participating should see Teresa Trumbach in room 213.