83.9 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, August 14, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesHelping Hands and Hearts at Special Olympics

Helping Hands and Hearts at Special Olympics

Volunteers cheer on an athlete in the standing long jump.Jordan LaCoss was so excited to be the final leg of the torch relay at St. Croix’s Special Olympics Saturday that he blew right by the finish line and started on another lap before organizers could slow him down.

“He loves to be the center of attention,” laughed Michelle LaCoss, his mother.

Saturday morning, a small army of volunteers descended on Renaissance Park to create one special day for those living with mental or physical disabilities on the island. For volunteer Mark Vinzant, this mission is a personal one.

“I’m a person with a disability, and I wanted to come out and help other young people with disabilities,” he said. “I try to encourage young people to participate in life as much as possible.”

Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)

Vinzant, who is a former Special Olympics chapter director, said that before he broke his neck at the age of 16, he was an athlete. He believes competition can help build an individual’s self-esteem, and he said the point of games was to give the athletes a chance to feel what it’s like to be a champion.

“Special Olympics is reward intensive,” he said. “In other words, everyone who participates gets some kind of reward, more than just a hug at the end of the track.”

Medina Roberts carries the torch during the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics.The athletes participated in sports ranging from tennis to basketball, bocce, softball throw, long jump and track.

After the first few rotations, some of the participants were so weighed down by medals that the awards were starting to get in the way. Volunteers at the long jump were instructing the children to tuck their awards under their shirts so they wouldn’t fly off mid-leap.

The athletes had no shortage of helpers. At each station, the number of volunteers outnumbered the competitors to the point that some had nothing to do but cheer.

Chapter Director Janice Lee was happy to see so many helping hands, especially the teenagers. She said participating in the Special Olympics could be just as rewarding and formative for the volunteers as it is for the athletes.

“It makes you care about people more, I think,” she said. “You don’t always look at people’s disabilities; you look at what they can do. It makes you accept people for what they are.”

Lee should know. She has been a part of the Special Olympics since the first games held on St. Croix back in 1977. In the intervening years she’s watched countless athletes compete, many of them returning year after year.

She said the games were as much about encouraging people with disabilities to socialize as they are about athletic competition, and that many of the athletes look forward to it all year long.

Michelle LaCoss agreed. She said the Special Olympics was one of the highlights of her son’s year because it was an opportunity for him to catch up with friends he rarely sees.

Jordan LaCoss lines up a shot during the tennis competition.Her only frustration was that the games only occur once a year. She said she wished there were more social programs for people with disabilities in the Virgin Islands so people like her son could form more of a community.

“These are things that need to be done on an ongoing basis, so there’s no big gaps,” she said. “The kids feel like they’re involved (today,) but then there’s a whole long period of time when there’s nothing going on.”

By noon, most of the athletes had cycled through the various events and the games were winding down. At the center of the park, athlete after athlete climbed the medal stand while the announcer recited their achievements. A crowd of volunteers stayed close by through the whole ceremony, making sure each athlete received a thunderous applause.

“It’s so rewarding for them,” Lee commented. “They grow so much.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more

Volunteers cheer on an athlete in the standing long jump.Jordan LaCoss was so excited to be the final leg of the torch relay at St. Croix’s Special Olympics Saturday that he blew right by the finish line and started on another lap before organizers could slow him down.

“He loves to be the center of attention,” laughed Michelle LaCoss, his mother.

Saturday morning, a small army of volunteers descended on Renaissance Park to create one special day for those living with mental or physical disabilities on the island. For volunteer Mark Vinzant, this mission is a personal one.

“I’m a person with a disability, and I wanted to come out and help other young people with disabilities,” he said. “I try to encourage young people to participate in life as much as possible.”

Vinzant, who is a former Special Olympics chapter director, said that before he broke his neck at the age of 16, he was an athlete. He believes competition can help build an individual’s self-esteem, and he said the point of games was to give the athletes a chance to feel what it’s like to be a champion.

“Special Olympics is reward intensive,” he said. “In other words, everyone who participates gets some kind of reward, more than just a hug at the end of the track.”

Medina Roberts carries the torch during the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics.The athletes participated in sports ranging from tennis to basketball, bocce, softball throw, long jump and track.

After the first few rotations, some of the participants were so weighed down by medals that the awards were starting to get in the way. Volunteers at the long jump were instructing the children to tuck their awards under their shirts so they wouldn’t fly off mid-leap.

The athletes had no shortage of helpers. At each station, the number of volunteers outnumbered the competitors to the point that some had nothing to do but cheer.

Chapter Director Janice Lee was happy to see so many helping hands, especially the teenagers. She said participating in the Special Olympics could be just as rewarding and formative for the volunteers as it is for the athletes.

“It makes you care about people more, I think,” she said. “You don’t always look at people’s disabilities; you look at what they can do. It makes you accept people for what they are.”

Lee should know. She has been a part of the Special Olympics since the first games held on St. Croix back in 1977. In the intervening years she’s watched countless athletes compete, many of them returning year after year.

She said the games were as much about encouraging people with disabilities to socialize as they are about athletic competition, and that many of the athletes look forward to it all year long.

Michelle LaCoss agreed. She said the Special Olympics was one of the highlights of her son’s year because it was an opportunity for him to catch up with friends he rarely sees.

Jordan LaCoss lines up a shot during the tennis competition.Her only frustration was that the games only occur once a year. She said she wished there were more social programs for people with disabilities in the Virgin Islands so people like her son could form more of a community.

“These are things that need to be done on an ongoing basis, so there’s no big gaps,” she said. “The kids feel like they’re involved (today,) but then there’s a whole long period of time when there’s nothing going on.”

By noon, most of the athletes had cycled through the various events and the games were winding down. At the center of the park, athlete after athlete climbed the medal stand while the announcer recited their achievements. A crowd of volunteers stayed close by through the whole ceremony, making sure each athlete received a thunderous applause.

“It’s so rewarding for them,” Lee commented. “They grow so much.”