GHS hosting Special Olympics bocce tournament today
GREENFIELD — Special Olympics athletes and high school student council members from across Massachusetts will compete in a bocce tournament today in the Greenfield High School gymnasium — an event that organizers said is the first of its kind in the state.
The tournament — organized by the Greenfield High Student Council, the Massachusetts Association of Student Councils and Special Olympics Massachusetts — will feature 20 teams from 14 schools. It is part of Special Olympics’ “Project Unify” — a program paid for by a federal grant that creates sports competitions with mixed teams of students with and without intellectual disabilities.
“We’re trying to get everyone together doing a similar thing. We don’t want anyone to feel left out,” said Chelsey Opalenik, a Greenfield High sophomore who is heading up the project for the school.
Greenfield has five teams competing, said Opalenik. Teams have practiced during lunch periods for the past couple of weeks.
The event will begin with an opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m. and then teams will compete for about four hours. A closing ceremony and award presentation will occur later in the afternoon.
It is open to anyone who wants to come show their support for the athletes, organizers said. An “Olympic Town” will run throughout the games — offering free carnival games, arts and crafts, face painting and temporary tattoos.
Money from a concession stand will go directly to the Special Olympics, and donations may also be given to the organization.
George Kent, director of organizational development for Special Olympics Massachusetts, said that Project Unify was expanded this year to include a bocce tournament. It is a game that is easy and fun to practice and play, he said.
Kent hopes the bocce tournament will be the first of many, as Special Olympics will investigate potential fundraising sources to pay for the event each year.
The tournament is also the first Massachusetts Association of Student Council statewide event of this magnitude to occur in the western part of the state, according to local student council members.
“It’s definitely a really big honor that we are hosting a statewide event here,” said Angela Mass, the school’s student council faculty adviser and a board member of the statewide student council.
Mass said that several locations were suggested before the event but Greenfield High School was ultimately selected. In addition to student council athletes, the school will also provide volunteer event staff, including referees, she said.
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