A Special Day for EI’s 13 Olympians

A Special Day for EI’s 13 Olympians

The East Islip Special Olympics team took the field for the third consecutive year, competing on May 19 at the Long Island Spring Games North hosted by Bethpage High School. Despite heavy rain, the student-athletes maintained their focus and competitive spirit, resulting in the team bringing home a total of 24 medals.

East Islip had a team of 13 this year, consisting of six middle schoolers (Riley Carrillo, Madeline Director, Jake Kozak, Janissa Lloyd, Julia Modico and Michael Pacheco-Uvidia) coached by physical education teacher Laura O’Donnell, and seven high school students (Delany Conlon, Danny DiOrio, Robert Phillips, Jake Pippatone, Michael Quagliara, Sara Spruyt and Kelly Stupplebeen), coached by physical education teacher Julie Susskind.

The team trained for approximately two months to prepare for their track and field events – 50-meter dash, 50-meter assisted walk, 100-meter dash, turbo javelin throw, softball throw and tennis ball throw – with each athlete competing in two events. With their hard work and dedication, alongside the commitment of the coaching staff and support of the volunteers, the year was another huge success for East Islip’s team, which earned 11 gold, 11 silver and two bronze medals.

The team members and their families had gathered for a pregame breakfast the day before, hosted by the East Islip Athletics Department, and the district’s Special Education Parent Teacher Organization showed its support with the purchase of a new team banner. Volunteers included East Islip teachers and staff such as Paula Brinker, Renee De Vries, Josephine DiMaggio, Christine O’Connell, Marissa Rymer, Donna Tuck and Diane Wahrenburg; family members of competing athletes like SEPTO President Noni Kozak, Thomas Di Orio and Anthony Matteran; community members like EI alumni Alfio DiMaggio, Frankie DiMaggio and Teresa DiMaggio; and even a middle school student, Antonia Tuck, who was the first student volunteer since the team was organized.

“This day could not happen without the support of volunteers,” said O’Donnell. “They stand side by side with our athletes throughout the entire event, and this year they too stood in the rain. They were all amazing.”

Also on the field rooting for the athletes were East Islip Middle School Principal Mark Bernard and Superintendent John Dolan.

“It’s great for the kids to see the administrators out here cheering them on,” said Susskind. “Having the principal and superintendent at an all-day Saturday event shows support for the program and everyone involved.”

“It just gets better every year,” said O’Donnell. “Even in the pouring rain, there’s nothing better than the high five at the finish line or the pride each athlete exudes while holding up their medal. We couldn’t be more honored to share this day with everyone on the team. I’m already looking forward to next year and hoping more students and more volunteers join.”