Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. welcomed approximately 400 young athletes with physical and mental disabilities to the Essex County Special Olympics Track and Field Competition at Essex County Brookdale Park on On Wednesday, April 23.
This is the 11th consecutive year that Essex County has hosted the spring competition at its state-of-the-art recreation complex in Essex County Brookdale Park.
“Essex County has a long history of working with the Special Olympics and we are proud to welcome them to Essex County Brookdale Park,” DiVincenzo said. “All of our athletes should be applauded because they worked hard to prepare for today’s events and did their best. The Special Olympics isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about giving our athletes an opportunity to compete, to work toward a goal and to have fun.”
After the Parade of Athletes around the running track, Adrian Davis from Bloomfield High School, accompanied by Montclair Police Officer Jacqueline Allen, carried the Olympic Torch and Bradley Ali, also from Bloomfield High School, joined by his coach Terry Nevins, led the athletes in the Special Olympics Oath. Once the opening ceremony was completed, the athletes competed in a variety of activities, including wheelchair races, assisted walks, long jump events, 50-meter races, 100-meter races, softball throws and standing long jump. The winners will advance to the state finals in June.
“I was excited to be chosen to carry our Olympic Torch this year,” said Davis. “Now, I am looking forward to competing in my events today."
G. Rosario-Perez, a student at Branch Brook School in Newark, was excited to participate in her events this year. After coming in first place in one of her events, she said: “I’m having a lot of fun here today.”
Katie Brunner, a student at the Horizon School in Livingston, was competing in several events. After competing in two events and earning a gold and bronze medal, she was very excited and anxious to compete in her other events.
“We are excited to be here and show our Eagle pride,” said Jesus Petroche, a student at Essex County West Caldwell Tech, whose mascot is an eagle.
The following schools and organizations brought athletes to participate in the Essex Olympic event: Bloomfield High School; Branch Brook School, Camden Elementary School, Camden Middle School, Central High School, First Avenue School, Benjamin Franklin School, Louise A. Spencer School, John F. Kennedy School, New Jersey Regional Day, 13th Avenue School, all from Newark; Essex County West Caldwell Tech; First Cerebral Palsy from Belleville; Jespy House from South Orange; The Horizon School and Horizon Grammar School from Livingston; New Beginnings from Fairfield; Independent Gardeslen; West Essex Regional High School from North Caldwell and Celebrate the Children from Denville.
An army of volunteers from Bloomfield High School and Montclair State University were there to assist in the competition and cheer the athletes to the finish lines. Law enforcement officers from the Essex County Sheriff’s Office and the Millburn, Belleville, South Orange, North Caldwell, West Orange, East Orange, Livingston, Montclair, Newark and Bloomfield police departments lined the track to welcome the athletes. There also was a special appearance by the Batmobile.
Special Olympics is a worldwide program that provides individuals with physical or mental handicaps with sports training and athletic competition. The Essex County Special Olympics Committee, a volunteer organization, works closely with the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs to raise donations to support the Special Olympics program. The County’s Special Olympics is a year-round program that is open to all special needs youngsters and adults throughout Essex County. Competitions are also held in bowling, cross country skiing and speed skating.