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Milford Special Games Brings Special Guests

Marathoners Dick and Rich Hoyt were special guests at Milford's first Special Olympic "School Day Games." The Hoyt's have competed together in over 1,000 races and 31 Boston Marathons. On April 21, the Hoyts ran in their 32nd and what they have said will be their final Boston Marathon.

In keeping with the spirit of the Boston Marathon, some special athletes in Milford got the chance to show off their athleticism during a day of fun and fitness before meeting some special guests.

On April 17, the Milford Public Schools and the Special Olympics sponsored their first "School Day Games" in the Milford High School gymnasium. Fifty-two special needs students in grades 1 through 8 were paired up with a buddy to participate together in various physical activities including bowling, basketball, indoor bocce, and accuracy throw games. For over an hour, the teams rotated through activity stations that were supervised by over 50 Special Olympic and high school student volunteers.

The athletes drew a big crowd; not only of parents, but of schoolmates as well. Students from Christine Bemis' second grade classroom at Brookside Elementary walked over to the High School for the morning and sat in the stands, cheering on their classmates and waving signs showing their support.

After the games, the students were introduced to special guests Dick and Rich Hoyt. The Hoyt's are a father and son team from Holland, Mass., who has competed together in over 1,000 races and 31 Boston Marathons. Rich Hoyt has cerebral palsy and is pushed in a special wheelchair by his father Dick Hoyt during the races.

During the touching award ceremony, Dick Hoyt presented each athlete with a medal before the teams took group pictures in front of the Special Olympic backdrop.

"Having the Hoyts here really means a lot to the students," said Special Education Teacher and Coordinator of the Milford Special Olympics Jennifer Walsh. "They are able to see what someone with disabilities can accomplish," she said.

The "School Day Games" have been in the works for the past six months, according to Walsh, who said that the Special Education and Health Departments wanted to plan an activity for the special needs students during the district's annual Healthy Kids Week held this year during the week of April 14-17.

Walsh said that the event was also a great way to show the younger children what the Special Olympics is all about. "We are trying to get more of the younger kids involved in the Special Olympics; we want to expose them at a younger age," she said. Walsh also said that in reverse, they hope that by exposing kids without disabilities to the Special Olympics, they will want to volunteer when they are older.

One of those volunteers is Kara DiGregorio, a junior at Milford High School and the President of Best Buddies, a program aimed at enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment. DiGregorio, who has been volunteering for the Special Olympics for the past seven years, said that she wouldn't have missed the School Day Games for anything.

"It is so awesome to be part of something like this that is really going to change the world someday," she said.

Walsh stated that they hope to make this an annual event, and from the cheers of the students from her announcement, you could be sure that they agreed with that plan.


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