Coaches at Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay, with the help of a $5,000 check from Sir Pizza, are boosting the spirits and self image of a group of challenged youngsters that will be participating in the Special Olympics.
WCS head baseball coach Emil Castellanos explained how it all came about from an inter-school connection.
“One of our football coaches is also a teacher at Southridge Senior High School who works for the STAR program,” Castellanos said. “He approached me about an all-star softball clinic for the guys to compete in the Special Olympics and that’s how we got moving with it.
“It was an unbelievable experience to be able to help those individuals attend the Special Olympics,” Castellanos said. “With us being blessed with what we have, it was a wonderful opportunity to give them something and show them that we do care. It’s going to be an annual event for me from here on out. We bought them all uniforms and hats, custom made with their last names and everything on it.”
About 50 mentally and/or physically challenged students from Southridge High School’s STAR (Spartans Transitioning Achievement for Real-life skills) program were hosted by WCS for a day of fun, oneon- one instruction and softball clinics. The students, ages 14-22, are all members of Southridge’s softball team that recently participated in the Special Olympics 2010 State Fall Classic in Orlando.
“It turned out to be a great thing for our kids here at the school, too, to help,” Castellanos said. “More of our kids are now involved in what’s called the buddy system, matched up with kids who are mentally or physically disabled in the organization.”
That idea grew into a special event that proved to have emotional impact for the coaches as well as the kids.
“We’re going to branch out to other sports. We’re anticipating soccer, basketball and all those sports, and we’re trying to see if as a school we can just help out in the community. To experience an event like we did really touched all of our lives, and some of our kids really grew very close.”
The $5,000 check from Sir Pizza was presented Wednesday, Oct. 27, during the event at Westminster Christian, and the Southridge team also played a friendly game against Westminster’s varsity softball team, with the entire WCS high school student body coming out to cheer.
“We so appreciated Sir Pizza coming out and feeding everybody at the event, and of course with the $5,000 it made so much possible,” Castellanos said. “Also, the kids who will be competing in the Special Olympics event in Orlando will be taken to the Magic Kingdom after the tournament. We’d also like to thank Under Armour athletic apparel for their help, and everyone who helped make this possible.”