“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." With those words, Marylin Avenue Elementary student Evan Douma opened the 2019-20 Tri-Valley Elementary Special Olympics on Oct. 3, at Granada High School. A week later, Granada High School student Jason Adams recited the same Special Olympics oath at the start of the secondary games of the 2019-20 Tri-Valley Special Olympics Northern California Schools Program.

Student athletes representing the school districts of Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and Castro Valley accompanied officers from the Livermore Police Department as they led the parade with the Olympic torch. As the Granada High School band played from the stands, athletes marched through a tunnel of support created by Mayor John Marchand, City Council Member Trish Munro, Livermore School Board Trustees and Superintendent Kelly Bowers, administrators, teachers, students, families and cheerleaders.

The football field buzzed with excitement as athletes threaded through dribbling cones, tested their goal-kicking skills, and competed in games between schools. Teachers, paraeducators, and student assistants cheered on participants, and high fives were exchanged as every effort was celebrated.

“It’s profoundly gratifying to see our students with special needs have the opportunity to compete against peers and experience the thrill of competition,” said Nancie Whiteside, Adapted Physical Educator of the Year and this year’s event coordinator. “Our athletes take away a true sense of accomplishment from their experience.”

The games were made possible through a partnership with Special Olympics of Northern California and Tri-Valley Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).

“What I love most is to meet new people and make new friends,” said Adult Transition Program student Nicole Remy. “I love the competition and I’m proud of myself.”

Over 30 schools from the Tri-Valley participated in this year’s soccer games. Having everyone invested in the games, as participants or supporters, reinforced the idea of inclusiveness and encouragement.

“If you have never been to a Special Olympics in Livermore you are missing out on one of the best events of the year for our community,” said Frank Selvaggio, Livermore school district Director of Special Education. “This year’s soccer competition at Granada featured hundreds of athletes and was by far the most festive event we have had thus far. I look forward to the remaining Special Olympics competitions that will occur throughout the year."

In February 2020 Dublin will host basketball, and in April Pleasanton will host track and field events.

“I find it incredibly heartwarming to see families celebrating their athlete’s efforts with hugs, words of encouragement, and fist bumps,” said Bowers. “This event is inspiring and we are proud to host the Special Olympics and support the incredible partnership of our teachers and schools who come together every year to celebrate students.”