No sooner had the Special Olympic athletes uttered their pledge Saturday morning – "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt," than they realized two more words should have been added: "and dry."
Just as the youngsters were all set to show their stuff, the heavens opened up, and apparently nobody up there from the Greek god Zeus to the Aztec Tlaloc was listening. Pleas went unanswered, as the raindrops beat down relentlessly.
Some folks gathered under the small tent where organizers had set up shop, while the small army of volunteers gathered their charges with a very few umbrellas and dashed for the gym.
The young athletes did get to march around the track following a CAHS color guard and the JROTC drum corps. First lady Cecile deJongh greeted the youngsters with a message of encouragement and support from her and Gov. John deJongh Jr., both of whom have supported the organization for several years. DeJongh started the local branch of Camp Shriver, which provides intellectually challenged children and adults with an opportunity to participate in sports training and social skills development, in 2007.
Addressing the youngsters Saturday, while looking at the menacing sky, deJongh said she would keep her remarks brief, so the games could start.
Well, the gods didn’t even listen to the first lady.
However, the spirit of the day was not lost.
While the athletes scurried up the hill to the gym, and the volunteers gathered their equipment, trekking up after them, the band played on.
Like true Broadway troupers, the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra continued the beat, banging out tune after tune, while standing in ankle deep water. One young drummer, in a Broadway moment, stopped long enough to empty out his drum, after which he picked up the beat and went right on without so much as a change of expression.
Janice Lee, who has organized the games since 1977, is quite a trouper, herself. After herding all the athletes, volunteers, parents and supporters to the gym, Lee initially said, "We’ll get it done." However, the logistics got the better of the situation.
"We hadn’t even started the food yet," Lee said. "We talked with Principal Carmen Howell and she said she could arrange for us to use the campus next Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon."
For the March 31st meet, Lee said, "We won’t have the opening ceremony again. It’s opened until it’s closed. We are asking everyone taking part to get here no later than 8:30 a.m. to hand out shirts, designate groups and get name tags."
Saturday’s meet had more volunteers than athletes, Lee said. "We are hoping to have more athletes next Saturday. The athletes must take part in the games to be eligible for the chapter games on St. Croix on May 12. The champions from the two districts will meet at Renaissance Park on St. Croix to select the territory champions."
St. Croix held its games March 10.
Meantime, huddled under the tent, the first lady and Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls chatted with what was easily the meet’s most far flung volunteer, Dixi Patterson from Donagel County, Ireland, a special education and drama teacher, who is here for six months with the Methodist Church Missionary Society.
Giving up on a break in the weather, Raul Carrillo, Government House protocol chief, finally whisked the first lady off under a hovering umbrella.
"My goodness," said Patterson. "Can you imagine that? No waiting limousines or anything. I can hardly believe I’ve been chatting with your first lady. She is just charming."