Special Olympics event back with a bang following pandemic hiatus

GUELPH – Crowds of enthusiastic student athletes cheered, chattered and laughed during the 19th Special Olympics Track and Field Day on May 17.

Kids with various abilities gave it their all as they ran races, tossed balls, and leaped over hurdles at St. James Catholic High School on the chilly but sunny day.

Almost 500 kindergarten to Grade 12 students in special education programs at schools across the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) and the Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) participated.

This year’s motto was “Better Together,” as the school boards have not been able to gather in-person for the Special Olympics since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crowd chuckled when Special Olympics Ontario president and CEO Glenn MacDonell laughed, saying its “hard to do this over Zoom, isn’t it?”

The sound of bagpipes set the tone for a lively day as a procession of athletes, teachers, families and volunteers paraded along a running track at the school.

Students from St. Mary Catholic School in Elora cheer as they walk the track at St. James Catholic High School, with hundreds of other student athletes from the Upper Grand and Wellington Catholic District School Boards at the Special Olympics Track and Field event on May 17.


The procession was followed by the opening ceremony, which included students reciting O Canada and the athletic oath, both out loud and in American Sign Language (ASL).

After the Godfrey Pigeon Club released a flock of pigeons over the crowd, the competitions kicked off.

Carter Loos, a Grade 2 student at Palmerston Public School, began with basketball, where he was passed the ball and “threw it in the net,” winning his first ribbon, he said.

Carter also competed in T-ball and bowling.

His mom, Carla Loos, said she feels hopeful the Special Olympics will increase Carter’s confidence.

“He’s not very confident when it comes to sports, so being here, getting cheered on, I hope it brings more confidence to join in,” she told the Advertiser.

Carter’s friend ,Spencer G.H., in Grade 1 at Palmerston Public School, said he also competed in basketball, T-ball, and bowling, as well as track and field.

Palmerston Public School students Carter Loos, left, and Spencer G. H., right, excitedly revel in their success in a basketball event at the Special Olympics Track and Field day held at St. James Catholic High School on May 17.


Elora Public School Grade 4 student Dawson came first in the 50-metre track race, and said he ran very fast to do so.

He told the Advertiser he was feeling nervous for his after-lunch event: the running long jump.

Paisley McKelvey, in Grade 3 at St. John Catholic School in Arthur, did a happy little dance before starting her 50-metre race.

“I won first place!” she exclaimed, dancing again as she showed her ribbon to the Advertiser.

McKelvey also participated in the 100-metre race and the running long jump.

St. John Catholic School Grade 3 student Paisley McKelvey proudly shows off her first place win in the 50-metre race at the Special Olympics Track and Field event held at St. James Catholic High School on May 17.


When asked about competing again next year, McKelvey said she doesn’t think she will because, after an eventful day, she’s feeling “ready to retire for a bit.”

Though many athletes present on May 17 have participated in prior years, this Special Olympics Track and Field Day was a first for Carter, Spencer, Dawson and Paisley.

The Special Olympics provides students an opportunity to celebrate one another, reach for their goals, “and try something new,” said event co-chair Andrea Welsh-Devlin.

WCDSB education director Michael Glazier said the Special Olympics provides a “platform for unity and celebration of each of our individual gifts,” and showcases the athletes’ “hard work and extraordinary spirit.”