Barbieri: Collaboration makes these games special
LABBB students and Best Buddies show off their medals at the Special Olympics at Lexington High School. Pictured, from left: Jack Ullian, LABBB student; Tara Patel, Best Buddy; Alex Beja, Best Buddy; Michael Curtin, LABBB student; Alicia McDonough, LABBB student; Demetri Monovoukas, Best Buddy; Connor Stewart, LABBB student; Juliet Eyraud, Best Buddy president.
By Patric Barbieri
Posted May 19, 2011 @ 06:58 AM
Lexington —Back in the late 1970s, the Special Olympics started its first local event at Lexington High School with approximately 30 high school athletes competing from the LABBB Collaborative. The LABBB Collaborative provides special education services to students from Lexington, Arlington, Bedford, Burlington, and Belmont. The event was first organized by a Lexington High School physical education teacher and Lexington student leader volunteers, and was held in the Lexington High School Field House. One of those student leaders was 1980 Lexington High School graduate Paula Rizzo. Paula, Special Olympics director, has been working for the LABBB Collaborative since 1985 and currently is the integration and recreational coordinator.
The success of these games is possible by the collaboration between staff from the LABBB Collaborative and Lexington High School. The bridge that brought this collaboration together was the Best Buddies program, which has been made up of student volunteers from Lexington High School since the spring of 2004.
On Wednesday, May 11, the eighth annual Special Olympics games took place at the Lexington High School track and field. This year the event had more than 200 athletes from the LABBB Collaborative elementary, middle, and high school programs, and an amazing 400 student volunteers from Best Buddies. Best Buddies are student volunteers who attend Lexington, Bedford and Arlington high schools, and the Chenery Middle School in Belmont. Without the commitment and dedication of the Best Buddies this event could not be organized with this many athletes.
The procession, which was led by the Lexington town selectmen and School Committee, began promptly at 9 a.m., as the athletes and their Best Buddies walked toward the podium on the Lexington track. The opening ceremonies began as Natalie Cohen, Lexington High School principal and master of ceremonies for the Special Olympics, introduced the athletes by classroom. Students from all LABBB member communities participated. As the athletes gathered behind the podium and the spectators were filling the bleachers and tents, they listened to Jackie O’Leary, LABBB student, sing our national anthem. As the torch lighting ceremony began, a Lexington police officer and two athletes raised the Olympic torch and approached the podium.
The spirit of these games is more than just the sporting events. It brings a community of people together to support the athletes and raise awareness of students with disabilities. The Best Buddies and the LABBB connection could not happen without the LABBB students being part of our public schools. This opportunity is what makes great events like this possible. We don’t have any famous sports stars hosting, but we have the dedicated LABBB staff and the Best Buddies!
Patric Barbieri is director of the LABBB Collaborative.