Story and photos by Ron Logan
February 10, 2011 (La Mesa): "This event turned out better than I ever could have imagined!" exclaimed Kim Fleming. "The outpouring of support from the students, teachers, and staff at Helix was overwhelming."
Fleming, a special education teacher, provided the heartbeat for the First Annual Games of Champions at Helix Charter High School. The inaugural event, held on February 9th at the school's Benton Hart Stadium, brought together the entire Helix High Community to support a demonstration of athletic prowess by some of the school's most special students.
The games were created to showcase the talents of the Helix special education students. Participants with severe intellectual and physical disabilities, many confined to wheelchairs, participated in five athletic field events including the Long-Ball Challenge (throwing a softball for distance), the Soccer Goal Challenge (kicking a soccer ball into a small goal), the Agility Course (a short zig-zag course of cones), the Discus Throw (using a plastic throwing disc) and Bowling (with a hollow bowling ball and plastic pins on artifical turf). There were five teams of four students and the entire presentation lasted just over an hour.
The athletes put forth heartwarming performances as they were encouraged by the Helix Cheer Squad, school staff, teachers, parents, caregivers, and hundreds of students. The closing ceremony featured a number by the Helix Dance Team and a gold medal presentation to all participants.
"My students were so proud of themselves and excited to share their talents with the school – that was my ultimate goal and it was definitely accomplished," said Fleming. "My only regret is not scheduling enough time for everything to take place. At next year's Games of Champions we will make sure to schedule a 90-minute block!"
When asked how the idea for the games originated, Fleming explained, "I was approached by the President of Helix's Key Club, Rinda Sutrathada, who was interested in bringing the members of Key Club and the students in special education together. Once we started planning for the event, other clubs and groups on campus wanted to get involved as well. It ended up being a wonderful collaboration for our students and was completely driven by the general education students wanting to become more involved with their peers with special needs."
Many people collaborated on the event. "Rani Goyal, Helix's Executive Director, was a key supporter of this event coming together so well" said Fleming. "Members of Key Club and M.E.Ch.A volunteered to run the games, members of Helix's ASB and Cheer Squad, led by Kat Shaw and Beth Leighton, volunteered to be the event's spirit leaders, the Helix Dance Team, led by Katie O'Rourke, performed for the closing ceremonies, and Amanda Van Buren and members of the art club constructed the torch. Students from the peer tutoring program, run by Theresa Rutherford, who volunteer with our students on a daily basis, were on the field with individual students helping them to complete each activity."
The games went off without missing a beat. The atmosphere was electric and positive. The student body was genuinely supportive of the event and of the athletes and let them know with plenty of cheers and applause.
"The parents and families in attendance had nothing but positive response for the event. Parents were impressed with how well their children participated in each contest and were surprised by the amount of students who came out to support their children … I hope for this event to become a tradition here at Helix, it would be great to get more clubs and organizations involved with our special education program."
As long as these wonderful people continue to give their heartfelt efforts in support of these special athletes – these special students – the Games of Champions is destined to be a wonderful fixture on the Helix campus.