Athletes, volunteers shine at ‘Discover Your Game'

Noah Catlett, Aiden Hildebrand and Carson Brady.

Noah Catlett, Aiden Hildebrand and Carson Brady.
Sara Wendell

Eatonville Disability Network partnered with youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from the Bethel and Eatonville areas, Special Olympics of Washington, and Eatonville School District to create a sports clinic for athletes interested in Special Olympics as well as those who already participate on a Special Olympics team. 

This event took place on July 15 at Eatonville High School. In total 85 youth aged 14 to 18 volunteered to support potential Special Olympics athletes. It was an opportunity for people with disabilities and typical youth to learn from each other and have fun together. There were several sports for athletes to try. Local businesses financially supported the event.

Tina Schmidt of the Eatonville Disability Network stated, “Discover Your Game” is inspired by the new Special Olympics Washington initiative Beyond Gold to build a more inclusive Washington State.

Beyond Gold is the Special Olympics of Washington current multi-year strategic plan and supporting campaign. The initiative helped to focus the clinic on more than just rewards for effort or a job well done.

“The goals of the (Beyond Gold) plan are to reach more people with and without intellectual disabilities in more places, create more life-changing opportunity and ignite support across the state”, as stated on the Special Olympics website. The purpose of “Discover Your Game” was to help people see those who may be different from themselves in a new way. The gold medal reward was friendship and understanding. If you would like to support Special Olympics of Washington in the “Beyond Gold” campaign, visit their website www.beyondgold.wa.

Unified sports are part of the inclusive movement that creates understanding and banishes intolerance. Unified sports teams are made up of people of similar age and similar ability. Shared sports training and competitive experiences encourage social inclusion. Information on how to join a unified sports team can be found on the Special Olympics website, .

The Eatonville School District’s swimming pool, track and field, gymnasium, and commons area were used to offer the following sports: swimming, Bocce, cheerleading, softball, soccer, and athletics. Bocce and cheerleading are new sports offered in Special Olympics Washington. The idea was to encourage athletes to try a different sport and allow new athletes to discover a sport that they love in the hope that they might join a Special Olympics team. Each sporting activity was led by someone who has been trained to coach or teach persons with disabilities. Calming and hydration areas were made available to those needing a break. Crafts were at the fingertips of anyone who wanted to get out of the sun. Volunteer youth were abundant and enthusiastic to talk with and help anyone.

“We are honored to host this meaningful event that unites athletes in South Pierce County”, said Jay Brower, new superintendent of Eatonville School District (ESD). Brower, former Community Connections Director for Bethel School District (BSD), has a lot of experience in creating community partnerships that benefit everyone. Brower is well known for starting a faith leaders’ group in Bethel School District that grew to over 200 members during his years at BSD. The group was made up of local church leaders, non-profits, community organizations and Bethel School District staff. The group worked to support and benefit all families living in the Bethel School District. The Discover Your Game event may be the first of many events and partnerships Eatonville families can look forward to participating in due to the inclusive nature of ESD’s new superintendent.

“We were founded in 2008 by a small group of parents of children with disabilities to create an inclusive community for all people living in the greater Eatonville area”, said Schmidt regarding the Eatonville Disability Network (EDN) , a non-profit organization. Schmidt is a board member as well as coach of the Eatonville Special Olympics Team. She is passionate about the Special Olympics. Her son is a member of the Eatonville team. To join, volunteer or donate to the Eatonville Special Olympics team contact Tina Schmidt at 253-677-2479.

From the perspective of one of the youth volunteers, Clara Chappell, “It’s important to have opportunities like this to help people who are different from us and make them feel loved and cared for.” Chappell goes on to explain, “My role was to make friends with athletes and mentor them and do sports with them.” Some of the youth volunteers had a specific athlete they went with to each sports activity. “It’s an honor to be here. I was working with Nick today. It was really fun to challenge myself and have fun with a new friend”, said youth volunteer Jane Schmeil. At the end of the day, after gaining a new outlook Schmeil shared “this experience helped me to think about my cousin with Dandy-Walker Syndrome. It helped me to remember to always be there for family and love everyone no matter what”.

“We want our youth to be a part of the community. We want them to build a desire to help other people. And we know as they reach out and help others, they will bless many and their own character will grow. In a world that is so divided it’s important for us to come together and lift many. We as a church can help a few people but when we join other organizations more people can be blessed” said Brian Manwaring, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We are thankful to our local business partners who have generously sponsored this multi-sport clinic for current and future athletes”, said Schmidt. Next Level Contracting, Pierce Properties, Systematic Property Management, Mill Haus Cider Co, Secoma Fence, Tom Hollandsworth-State Farm, and Cobblestone Realty made the whole day possible. From t-shirts for volunteers, food for all participants, lifeguards and everything else required to make the day a success, the sponsors are to thank for their giving heart.

Brian Ingalls, an employee of Next Level Contracting, was “thrilled to be able to come to this event.” His son, Tucker, is an athlete on the Lacy Special Olympics team. Tucker is a swimmer and took his team to state in the swimming division. Having been involved with the Special Olympics for eight years, Ingalls expressed his gratitude that his employer was one of the sponsors.

“As sponsors, we went into this event knowing we were helping support our local Special Olympics athletes. Nothing prepared us for how much those athletes helped us. They…showed us what teamwork and sportsmanship are supposed to be. We enjoyed being side by side with them making new friends and are honored we were able to share in the success of such a special event.” said Emmy Lay from Cobblestone Realty.

“Discover Your Game” sports clinic was a success due to the willingness of people and organizations to come together to create an opportunity for fun and understanding to happen at the same time, in the same space and for all involved.


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