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On a sunny and warm Saturday, November 5, hundreds of athletes and their families filtered past New Castle County Police Department clydesdales into the Sipprelle Field House, St. Andrew’s students and faculty members lined the indoor track railing to watch the Noxontones sing the Star Spangled Banner, and Assistant Director of Community Service Kelly Lazar P’26 found herself tearing up. St. Andrew’s was once again hosting the Delaware Special Olympics Fall Festival for the first time since 2019, and the opening ceremonies were the culmination of weeks of hard work on the part of Lazar and so many others.
“The power of the room was absolutely amazing,” Lazar said. You could just feel the energy.”
More 600 athletes competed in the Fall Festival, in flag football, soccer, long distance running and bocce ball. For weeks, these athletes had trained and completed qualifying competitions in anticipation of this event. The St. Andrew’s community responded in full force.
“Every single student from our school [volunteered],” said Lazar. “At the end of their shift, they asked where else they could help and if they could just stay and cheer. It was just such great energy.”
"We couldn't have been more excited to return to the beautiful campus of St. Andrews for our 2022 Fall Sports Festival," said Kylie Frazer, Senior Director of Sports & Competition at Special Olympics Delaware. "We are extremely fortunate to partner with St. Andrew's who not only serves as our host-site, but who truly goes above and beyond to ensure our community feels accepted, respected and celebrated. This year we had over 420 athletes and Unified partners who competed in bocce, flag football, long distance running and soccer. We are forever grateful for the countless hours of energy and hard work that the key staff and student leaders, led by Jay Hutchison and Kelly Lazar, provided to ensure a safe and successful event."
In addition to the festival’s athletic events, St. Andrew’s students created a new program called Young Athletes. The program gave children with special needs between the ages 2-7 a taste of the competition—and the participants had their own ideas in mind.
“They were just messing around with all the equipment, rolling around in the tunnels, playing with the soccer balls and cones,” reminisced Emma Hopkins ’23. “They were having such a good time.”
Hopkins helped plan and organize volunteers for the new program.
“It was so cool to organize from the ground up and figure it out as we went along,” she said.
Hopkins was a freshman the last time the Special Olympics came to campus, in the fall just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a swimmer, she was drawn to the school’s Adaptive Aquatics service program, in which students give swim lessons to local children with special needs.
“It drew me in immediately,” said Hopkins. “I’ve been an athlete for as long as I can remember and experiencing athletics in a way that feels so meaningful gives a lot of depth to sports in general. It was very powerful, and I was hooked immediately.”
“This weekend has reinforced everything I started this for… There were a couple kids I was able to see again from my freshman to senior year. It was great to see the growth they’ve had.”
The hard work and dedication from the St. Andrew’s student body was in full force during the event, and Lazar couldn’t thank them enough.
“Thank you to our senior leaders,” she said after the event. “It takes a village. It was literally everyone stepping in. It was really amazing.”
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