Special Olympics visits William Floyd

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On Sunday, the William Floyd School District hosted the Long Island regional Special Olympic Spring Games for the second year in a row. It was a celebratory day, and for many, it was perfect in many ways.

As many as 800 athletes participated in the event, and hailed from as far west as Brooklyn and as far east as East Hampton—with the majority of the athletes living somewhere in between. The contests these gifted athletes participated in were mostly track and field events, such as the long jump and relay races. But there was a softball toss competition as well.

With gray skies and silver clouds threatening, it looked as if the weather might cancel some of the events, but by mid-afternoon, the sun came out and the temperature rose to the mid-70s.

John Foley, the retired athletic director from the Ward-Melville School District and an event coordinator of the Special Olympics for 20 years, said it was the best spring games he has ever attended.

William Floyd athletic director Mark Mensch was the event coordinator for this year’s games and couldn’t have been happier with the results.

“It was a fantastic day,” he said. “Last year’s event was just as good, but the weather played a huge role in those games. No one wanted to leave, everyone was smiling. One parent compared her experience to that of visiting Disney World because it was so well organized and a pleasure to be there.”

School Superintendant Dr. Paul Casciano led off the opening ceremony and was very proud, privileged and honored to have the Spring Games at William Floyd for the second-straight year.

“The athletes are just so inspiring,” he said. “To overcome so many challenges and to go out and compete, just sends out a strong message to everyone.”

Casciano could not say enough about the volunteers from around the community.

“You saw the best side of people,” he said. “It restores your faith in people and to see everyone come out on one day is just a great thing. The William Floyd community took ownership and made it work.”

U.S. Representative Tim Bishop was in attendance for the opening ceremony and said he was impressed with how well the event was run.

“It was a real undertaking for the William Floyd School District,” he said. “The number of people they needed and what they had in return was great. It was very ambitious of the them to do such a thing.”

Many of the varsity and junior varsity athletes from within the district volunteered to help out in a variety of ways, as did many members of the surrounding community. Some people recorded results from the athletic events, while others coached the athletes. A lot of work went into setting up an Olympic village, which was staged in front of the football field, Mensch said.

Members of the William Floyd boys varsity soccer team held a soccer kick competition in the Olympic village, where participants had to try to hit targets in a goal past goalie John Germer. Head coach Mike LaCarrubba, along with Pedro Moreno, Tim Izzo and Patrick Rooney were all there to help out.

Joe Caltagirone, an elementary school teacher at Hobart Elementary School, was a coach for the track and field events.

“I have a group of kids here that I coached last year,” he said after one of the running events was completed. “It’s a great, great experience.”

Greg Shapiro, 18, of East Meadow was participating in multiple events throughout the day and was spending the day with his father Lenny.

“This was more organized than last year,” the elder Shapiro said. “This is just a very good event for the kids, it really is.”

Next year’s Spring Games will be held at East Hampton High School, and Mensch will be an event manager at those games as well. He and East Hampton athletic director Joe Vasile-Cozzo are good friends, he said, and worked together in the East Hampton School District for six years.

“They have a dynamite physical education staff, and it should be great,” Mensch said. “They have a brand new stadium with a brand new track and field, and it should be a great opportunity to showcase that.”

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