Through year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs, the Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates diverse gifts for almost 2.5 million children and young adults in more than 170 countries. Over 15,000 special athletes in Thailand now have the opportunity to develop their physical fitness and become socially integrated with their communities under the Special Olympics umbrella.
In particular, the Special Olympics track competition was introduced to athletes in the eastern region of Thailand for the first time in Pattaya City in 2007. Furthermore, it has become the only Special Olympics event in Thailand that has the full support of its host community, and unlike other events, which are rotated around the country, Pattaya has an annual event because of this support.
Jesters Care for Kids has provided tremendous support to the Special Olympics Thailand Eastern Regional Games over the past 5 years enabling young adults and children with intellectual and physical disabilities to experience new challenges and meaningful inclusion in Thai society. Along with the other sponsors that make all of this possible, the Jesters Care for Kids and their supporters look forward to this annual event with great anticipation, as for two days it provides us with the opportunity to view close up the tremendous courage displayed by the contestants and the sheer joy that is evident in their smiles as they compete. Fist pumps are the order of the day whether finishing first or last.
This year around 200 athletes from nine schools, or centres, competed, assisted by 60 coaches and teachers, as well as over 100 volunteers from the Institute of Physical Education Chonburi, Pattaya City, SOT staff and Mattel Thailand. Many of the athletes and their teachers who traveled long distances to compete from Lopburi, Chachoengsao, Samut Prakan, Bangpakong, Chantaburi and Suphanburi were all represented along with Chonburi Special Centre Garunyawet Orphanage and Father Ray’s Maha Thai group.
(L to R) Bernie, Woody, three winners, William Macey (PSC), and Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh.
This year’s proceedings at School #7 began with the official opening by Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh and the presentation of sponsors’ cheques to Ms Rachaniwan Bulakul, the National Director of SOT. Visitors were then entertained by the School #7 band before a display of cricket, a demonstration sport that has recently been introduced to the athletes and one that they seem to have adopted with great enthusiasm.
Then it was time to for the official games to begin. The morning’s programme consisted of preliminary competition in athletics, bocce and more of the same in the afternoon. The disciplines involved were running jumping and throwing. The foot races were run over distances from 50 to 800 metres. What was particularly noticeable was the energy and enthusiasm of all competitors and the seeming disregard for the result, no glum faces anywhere; just smiles all around. What was particularly noticeable was that each competitor was encouraged to complete his or her given challenge even though they were completely outdistanced; the finish line was the goal. Those of us who enjoyed the privilege of presenting the medals witnessed this attitude in all competitors in all events. Those that finished last smiling as broadly as the winners.
After awarding their medals, Bill poses with some of the winners and their coach.
Finals of all competitions were conducted on the second day including the bocce. And the winners were? Everyone! The organizers should be proud of the programme and of the work they do in giving these severely disadvantaged children, and the few young adults that competed, the opportunity to experience the joy of displaying their courage and tenacity amongst their peers. The coaches, carers and volunteers that make it all possible deserve a vote of thanks as well. Jesters Care for Kids has seen great value in this programme and hope to be able to continue support in future years.
A runner in action, smiling all the way to the finish line.
Athletes resting and posing for the camera.