High school to host Special Olympics

In recent years, Seymour High School has helped lead the charge for inclusion athletics in southern Indiana.

Next month, SHS will host two major track and field events for special needs athletes.

On May 13, the school will host the Special Olympics Indiana Spring Games.

Hundreds of athletes from across the region will venture to SHS to put their skills to the test in hopes of qualifying for the national games.

The event will have athletes from high school on up.

“We got involved a couple years ago because we started the Inclusion Revolution track meet,” SHS assistant athletic director Dave Urbanski said. “We ran two modified track meets with Madison, Jennings County and Bedford North Lawrence. The IHSAA then started a program called Champions Together. Champions Together originally started as a banner program that we’ve been involved with the past three years.

We raised $1,500 for Special Olympics and we provide an awareness program in our community over the benefits of inclusion. Our national honor society, peer tutors and student athletic board have taken it upon themselves to do the awareness program, raise the funds and then run the track meets.”

The staff and students at SHS plan on having a huge group in attendance at Bulleit Stadium.

“We’re going to be hosting about 300 athletes,” Urbanski said. “They estimate that the crowd size will be 1,200 or more that will be coming to Seymour — many who have never been here before. We think it’s great for our community and the city. Everyone wins in this.”

Admission is free and those working the event are looking for volunteers.

Administration aims to have an abundance to volunteers working the event.

“We’ve asked kids at the school, teams and programs, and they’re looking for 100 or so to help,” Urbanski said. “We want to bombard them with 1,000 volunteers. What we started doing was advertising within the school about people volunteering.”

Anyone in the community can volunteer and help.

The report time at the track is 8:30 a.m. and the event will begin at 9:30 a.m. It will roughly end around 3 p.m.

Urbanski said that the Special Olympics approached the school to get involved.

“Francie Smith, who represents the entire southern district of Special Olympics Indiana, came to our inclusion revolution track meet and then came to our our champion youth pilot program at Seymour-Redding Elementary School last year. She thought it was one of the best ones that was run in the state of Indiana.”

It was after a school assembly that Smith knew SHS was the right venue.

“They came earlier this year and gave a benefits assembly over inclusion with a kid named Andrew Peterson,” Urbanski said. “(Peterson) was a gold medal winner in the national Special Olympics. They spoke to our entire school on the benefits of inclusion. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place when he was talking. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and rose through abuse, bullying and oppression and won a gold medal.

After that (Smith) asked if we would be interested in using our facilities. When she was here, she noticed the gym and then we took her out to the turf soccer fields and the football fields. She said they were looking for a facility to host the spring games.”

On May 2, Seymour will also host another track meet for kindergarten through fifth-graders.

The hope is to continue growing and paving the way for programs in the future.

“Our goal is to start a unified track meet and compete in the IHSAA Unified Track,” Urbanski said. “What Unified Track has, with Champions Together, is a pilot program for youth called Play United. The model is just like for modified track. They’re paired with a student and they both compete in the contest.”