Forsyth County Resumes the Special Olympics Following the COVID-19 Pandemic

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  • Special Education teacher and Track & Field coach Kelsey Ballou and sophomore Dylan Garonzik sitting in-between station breaks. Photo by Kelsey Ballou.

  • Senior Maggie Sole and sophomore Ethan Willhite at the photo booth station. Photo by Maggie Sole.

  • Senior Alyse English and sophomore Ethan Willhite sitting in-between station breaks. Photo by Kelsey Ballou.

  • Senior Maggie Sole & Natalie Hernandez and sophomore Ethan Willhite in the lunchroom where the event provided a Halloween-themed backdrop. Photo by Maggie Sole.

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On Friday, Oct. 29, the Forsyth Special Olympics occurred inside the Central Park Recreation Center. The event lasted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. North Forsyth, East Forsyth, South Forsyth, West Forsyth, Denmark, Lambert and Central High School participated.


Students rotated among four stations: Dance, basketball, volleyball and Halloween stations. The Halloween stations consisted of cornhole-esque games where students could toss various objects into pumpkin pails or plastic cauldrons.  


In between rotations, volunteers distributed lunch.


The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. It provides year-round training and athletic competitions in Olympic-type sports. Its goal is to motivate individuals with disabilities to be productive and participate in society.


North takes part in two Special Olympics games per year: one in the spring and one in the fall, which is the “Halloween Edition.” In 2019, North only attended the Halloween games since school shut down in the spring of 2020, and the fall Special Olympics also wasn’t held in 2020.


Special Education teacher and Track & Field coach Kelsey Ballou was glad that the event made a comeback this year. “It was a relief to know that all my kiddos would be able to interact with students from other schools again,” said Ballou.


Special Education classrooms focus on social-emotional and community-based learning. Ballou stated, “Much of our learning happens outside of the school building, so it’s important that we get to go out and do things safely.”


Continuing her statement about the Special Olympics, Ballou explained, “Most of the stations were the same as usual, which is great because our kids love predictability.” She concluded, “I love seeing students that usually don’t enjoy certain activities getting engaged with not only the activities but the peer buddies as well.”


North offers a class period where students can assist and form relationships with Special Education students. The class is known as “Peer Facilitation” and whoever signs up for it can become a peer buddy.


Senior Maggie Sole has been a peer buddy for two years now; although, this was her first time attending the Special Olympics. Sole went on to explain why she enjoyed the event.


“Honestly, everything about it was so much fun! I walked in, and immediately, I smiled. It was such a great feeling seeing everyone in the community get together, be active and have a good time,” said Sole.


Sole also added, “I was able to interact with students, and even peer buddies, from other schools. It was an awesome experience for the Special Education students at North.”  


No high school won the event as it was all for fun and fitness. The Special Olympics was a success overall thanks to the county volunteers who helped put it together, and North looks forward to the next event in the spring.