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Round Rock Special Olympics Hosts Annual Awards Night

By Christiano Araujo, Photographer

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On Wednesday, May 9, the Round Rock Special Olympics organized an awards ceremony dedicated to honoring athletes and volunteers for their work in the program this past year. While this marked the end of the season for sports, it allowed members to reminisce the achievements made by athletes and partners within the organization.

“We came to celebrate the program, we honored our athletes, volunteers, our unified partners. It’s just kind of the end of the year celebration rounding out the sports here for us,” Lead Adapted PE Teacher Nancy Haycraft said.

This event also marked a year of transition for the program and its families, following the departure of former Lead Teacher Jan Sartain last year, who led the program for more than two decades. Their mission was to continue the work Ms. Sartain had done and build on it. Ms. Haycraft will continue to learn more about the position and share her passion for adapted physical education.

“Our goal was to kind of keep moving forward without anything changing for the families — we wanted to keep the program moving forward,” Ms. Haycraft said. “For me it was extremely fast and furious and my learning curve was beyond vertical.”

The central idea of family was the theme for this year’s awards, which several coaches felt was an essential part of the night.

“I really liked the theme this year which is all about unity and how we are better as a giant team than a sum of all our parts,” Coach Stephanie Kolaczkowski said. “[This is] probably one of my favorite themes to date because it definitely is more geared towards what represents us. The award winners were well-deserving and inspiring. You couldn’t help but smile when they got their awards. It’s always a fun event for me I always look forward to it.”

As the night was ending, recognition was given to several individuals throughout the district. Ms. Sartain announced the first recipients of the Leader in Education Honorary Scholarship awards to two seniors who were both part of the Partners in P.E. program at their high school, and unified partners in Special Olympics.

While the awards ceremony was filled with excitement, it also revealed the purpose the program has: to encourage those who participate in it to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of the school system.

“Special Olympics is kind of a leveler for the playing fields,” Coach Kolaczkowski said. “Athletes that wouldn’t have the chance to participate in maybe a UIL sport and be successful, they now have a world that is more accessible to them. It helps them develop social skills, a competitive nature, interest in any kind of sport or life long activity to help keep them healthy for the rest of their life. It just gives them a chance to feel successful and feel like a winner.”

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