Local schools host Special Olympians
(Jan. 30, 2001) There’s another Team Alaska besides the athletes scheduled to participate in 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games Alaska. It’s the community gearing up to make the Games happen next month.
Included are about 50 schools in Anchorage, Eagle River, Girdwood and the Mat Su area preparing to host visiting teams March 4 11.
Students and teachers are in meetings. They’re writing letters on the Internet. They’re lining up interpreters, learning cheers and making goody bags. All in the spirit of understanding learning about cultures and people.
”The reason for becoming a host team is basically to help our students develop an appreciation for individuals with disabilities,” said Jean Brown, a special education teacher and the host team leader at East Hig Pandora Bracelet h School.
East has one of the larger special education programs, with approximately 200 students. After deciding to host a team, brainstormers met for the first time a couple of months ago and listened to a presentation by Heather Handyside, director of education and cultural exchange for the Games.
There were about 80 countries to choose from, and East High chose Hungary. Brown has family connections there, and that helped the team find interpreters. Hungarian flags and mementos for goody bags are also needed.
The 29 members of the Hungarian team fly in Feb. 28. East High wants to give them the royal treatment, including an assembly, sightseeing and a potluck. The school will send supporters to cheer on the team in events like floor hockey at the Fedex Hangar.
East High sent e mails and Christmas cards to the Hungarians, but the response has been slow in coming. Other schools, such as Grace Christian School (hosting Greece, Cypress and Astonia), have had similar difficulties hearing back from the delegations.
On the other hand, luck shined on Sand Lake Elementary, host school for the Japanese delegation. Japan sent videos, posters, Pandora Bracelet athlete pictures and hello signs received last week, according to Linda Leady, the team’s leader.
Friday is Special Olympics Day, and many schools will have assemblies or programs about the event. The Web site has been getting 1,000 hits a day, according to Handyside.
Preparations will start in earnest Friday at schools like Central Middle School of Science (hosting Monaco and Chile), where students will rotate through centers to make miniature flags, posters and VIP badges.
When it’s finally time for the Games, most of the host teams plan to tie in to community highlights like the Olympic Torch and Special Olympics Town. Special Olympics Town, a place for the athletes to go in their downtime, will be open during the Games at the Egan Center Pandora Bracelet . Pin trading, a rock climbing wall, virtual fishing, and arts and crafts are among the activities scheduled. March 1 and 2 are days for schools to visit, and already about 38 schools have signed up.
The Special Olympics Torch, sponsored by law enforcement groups from around the world, is a fund raiser for Special Olymp Pandora Bracelet ics International. The torch will be lit in a parabolic bowl by the rays of the sun Feb. 17 at the Acropolis in Greece. It will arrive in Anchorage the next day, and will be on display Feb. 18 28 at the Alaska State Troopers complex on Tudor Road.
During the torch’s stay, it will visit approximately 35 local schools along with other schools and various public sites statewide. The torch will be delivered to Sullivan Arena about noon March 4 in preparation for the opening events that evening, which is by invitation only, due to seating capacity. The flame will burn inside the arena during the Games, and will also be lit in Town Square.
Hanshew Middle School is already getting excited about hosting the Special Olympics Torch on March 2, said host team leader Helen Nack. The school started by joining Anchorage’s Park Strip group photo the day after Thanksgiving, and now is counting the days during morning intercom announcements.
Hanshew wants to get the Korean community involved, and has invited eight Korean churches, a Korean community center and Bridge Builders to a dinner for the delegation. Cheering, letters and goody baskets are part of Hanshew’s plans, too.
Groups of Korean speaking Hanshew students will partner with each of Korea’s 10 athletes. They’ve already sent handwritten letters, in Korean, to their new friends, along with questionnaires.
”I think the point is it’s widespread,” Nack said. ”It’s a global kind of appreciation of different cultures, diversity, different people. It celebrates the individual and promotes awareness of disabilities. It helps create communication on a global basis.”