Sophomores Host Special Olympics on Campus

Sophomores Host Special Olympics on Campus
Debbie Higgins

The Class of 2024, along with faculty, staff, parent, and alumni volunteers, welcomed 136 athletes to campus for a Special Olympics track and field event on May 11. It was the first Special Olympics event De Smet has been able to host on campus since 2019.

Supporting the Special Olympics is a beloved tradition at De Smet and a capstone service event for the sophomore class. Students serve as buddies for athletes and work together to run track events and carnival games. 

De Smet students commonly cite volunteering for the Special Olympics as one of their most impactful experiences in high school. The following student reflections offer insight into the lessons and gratitude this important day inspires. 

Special Olympics for me was such an awesome experience. Like a lot of the people waiting to get buddies, I did not know what to expect, and was a little bit nervous for what I had in store. Once I got up to the front of the line, I was greeted by the teacher saying, “She needs two people with her.” Immediately, nervousness and uneasiness set in. I was calmed by my partner and classmate, Grant Orf, who was going along for the ride with me. We were introduced to Joanna and her special helper Sheila. Sheila was very nice and warned us that we had a lot in store for us for the day. She didn’t disappoint because Joanna was a lot to handle. She was running everywhere, never standing still, and always wanting to explore this openness that she felt being at the competition. - Luke Koenig '24

Grant and I worked hard to keep her focused, but it was a big challenge. This really helped me develop my patience.

Joanna was always on the run, and normally I’d want to get mad and be frustrated at her. However, knowing that she has no control over this, I had to be patient with her, and realize I need to do my best to accept her for who she is. Once I got along to accepting this, the fun never stopped. She started smiling, running, and you could tell she was having fun. It made me happy to see her happy. Yes, she had her share of challenges, but at the end of the day, that trouble is what made her so unique. I am so thankful that she taught me that value of patience.

Two boys in white shirts walk a track, holding a young girl's hands.


Before the event started, I felt both nervous and excited. There were so many kids coming in and I didn’t know who I would get. Any feeling of nervousness wore off when I met Ian. At first Ian was hesitant to come with me, but after I introduced myself with a big smile on my face, he grabbed my hand and we went along.  Both Ian’s mother and coach accompanied me throughout the day and although at first I felt a bit of pressure, I enjoyed seeing the pure joy on his mother’s face."  

Ian’s mom struggled to speak English and seemed to have struggled in the past with finding help for Ian. Knowing this, I gave extra effort to make sure that he got the most out of this experience.

During the opening ceremonies, I paid attention to Ian’s actions to see how he behaved, and I noticed he wasn’t very good with directions. He didn’t want me to tell him to do something, he wanted me to do it with him.  That’s why when I told him that I would race alongside him, he immediately got up off the ground and headed over to the race.  When he finished that race, you could sense a feeling of accomplishment and he had a huge smile on his face.  He finished 2nd, and after the race and immediately ran over to his mom to give her a hug.  It was awesome to see the joy that filled both he and his mom.  This experience helped me realize that my actions and effort could help others in ways I had never imagined. It was awesome to see parents proud to see their kids overcoming adversity, and I will always remember the tears of joy on Ian’s mom’s face when he ran and hugged her after finishing. - Graham LaBonte '24

Boy in white shirt and sunglasses bends down to side hug a young boy in green shirt on a turf field.


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