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Thursday, February 2, 2023

St. Bernard Parish Brings Back Annual Special Olympics

(Pictured, l-r): Mary Lumetta (Assistant Superintendent), Carly Jackson (Board member), Katherine Lemoine (Board member), Cliff Englande (Board President), Doris Voitier (Superintendent), Diana Dysart (Vice President), Rosiland White (Board member), and Bill Egan (Board member).

Photos Courtesy of St. Bernard Parish Government

Contributed by St. Bernard Parish Government

After a two-year hiatus, the Special Olympic Games returned to Chalmette High School’s Bobby Nuss Stadium. Hosted by the St. Bernard Parish School Board with support from community partners from across the parish, the Games began with a parade as the athletes processed into the stadium for the Opening Ceremonies. After the National Anthem, Superintendent Doris Voitier addressed the crowd.

“As you all know, our community suffered great loss from the devastating tornado that hit Arabi this week. But as we have done time and time again, the people of our parish came together to help those in need,” Voitier said. “Today’s celebration is a reminder of that strength in our community and serves as a tribute to the unity and spirit of St. Bernard.”

Beautiful weather served as the sunny backdrop for the Games as 225 athletes with special needs participated in a variety of track and field events, sharing the sportsmanship and empowerment that comes from this event. 

School Board President Clifford Englande said the district has participated in Special Olympics for decades and is proud to have been recognized as a Program of Distinction by the state of Louisiana.

“It was so good to have the Special Olympics back on campus,” Englande said. “From the ‘buddies’ who coach and escort our Olympians, to the coaches and community partners who cheer them on, today is about coming together in celebration of the Games.”

Planning such a large event takes months of preparation, and Englande said the Board is appreciative of all of the volunteers and staff that make these Olympic Games truly special.

“Special Olympics is a result of the countless hours of hard work by school administrators, volunteers, and other community and service organizations,” he said. “We are grateful for the support of so many. It’s like we always say, a strong school system helps create a stronger community.”

Paul Frey, the Director of Special Olympics for St. Bernard Parish Schools, said creating a family feel for the event was a big part of its success.

“Seeing the smiles on the athletes’ faces, you could tell that they really enjoyed this day,” Frey said. “My favorite part is putting the spotlight on these athletes and seeing so many people come together to celebrate them.”

Frey said these Olympians also compete in hopes of qualifying for the state games held later this year. 

Cheramie Kerth, the Supervisor of Special Education for the district, said hosting the Special Olympics is a reminder of what is important.

“With so much emphasis on winning in our society today, it’s nice to see the true joy of the sport,” said Kerth.

She said that sentiment is nicely stated in the Special Olympics Oath. “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

The aim of the Games is to give these young people opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.

Parish President Guy McInnis and Tyshae Brady.

(Pictured, l-r): Student-athletes from Arabi Elementary School, Camden Herrmann and Connor Schloegel.

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