Leah Langer raised the mic and took a deep breath, scanning the rows of athletes in front of her. “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Around her, the room erupted into cheers and applause as athletes and their families celebrated the Special Olympics Oath that so many of them hold close to their hearts.
On January 23, 2018, Capital High School’s gymnasium flooded with athletes, local community members and CHS students and staff to support Special Olympics Thurston County. This annual “Pack the Gym” event served two purpose: to bring awareness of Special Olympics Thurston County programs and to raise funds that keep the programs running.
Capital High School (CHS) student Sydney Wilson took on a leadership role of coordinating the event alongside Mark Barker, local program coordinator for Special Olympics Thurston County.
“Pack the Gym” featured multiple games as their team split into 8 mini basketball teams (with over 90 athletes), performances by the Capital High School Cheerleading team and the new JBLM Tigers Special Olympics Cheerleading team and announcements about fundraising efforts.
While this marks the fifth year of CHS’ partnership with Special Olympics Thurston County for the event, this year was the first time an athlete, Anya Boetcher, led the opening ceremonies. Dozens of CHS students attended to show their strong support and kicked off the event by forming a human tunnel for the athletes to run through to enter the gym.
Whereas the Special Olympics “Unified” event at Olympia High School in early January featured teams that are composed of students with and without intellectual disabilities, the CHS game was solely Special Olympics Thurston County athletes who all live with at least one intellectual disability. Athletes ranged in age, with some teams having athletes from 8 to 63 years old.
“Pack the Gym” helps fund all nine of Special Olympics Thurston County’s athletic programs, which include swimming, track and soccer. Between the nine teams, Special Olympics Thurston County works with over 200 different athletes throughout the year. Barker would love to see that number to increase by at least 100 over the next 5 years.
For individuals and families interested in learning more about becoming involved with Special Olympics Thurston County, please contact Mark Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org.