School hosts track meet for Special Olympics athletes


A Special Olympics athlete high fives members of the school community during the opening ceremony of the track meet held at break April 20. The community service event was organized by the Christian Club and Community Council. Credit: Teresa Suh/Chronicle

Dario Madyoon

The Christian Club and Community Council teamed up with the Special Olympics to host a track meet for young students with learning disabilities April 20.

The opening ceremony was held between second and third periods, replacing the originally scheduled 1st and 3rd Wednesday Assembly. Students lined up in two files on the Ted Slavin Field and greeted the athletes as they entered the campus.

Despite being excused after the opening ceremony, many Harvard-Westlake students remained in the stands to cheer for the athletes as they competed in several races and softball throw competitions.

The athletes attend schools that work with The Help Group, a Sherman Oaks non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with special needs.

“It was really cool to see all these kids getting a chance to compete, doing stuff they love, so I think it was a big success,” Oliver Friedman ’17 said.

Math teacher and Christian Club sponsor Matthew Mori first proposed the event to school administrators after being contacted by someone from The Help Group at his local church.

“I had done some tutoring with my church, so she found out I was a teacher,” Mori said. “Once she saw where I was located, she contacted me and asked if we could set something up because we have such great facilities here.”

Mori presented the idea to the members of the Christian Club as a way of looking outward and seeing how they could benefit the community.

“I wanted them to get involved in something that would make them look out more rather than look in, so I asked them if they would help sponsor this event,” Mori said.

Community Council and other volunteers from the student body helped Christian Club members organize the event by leading Harvard-Westlake students onto the field and guiding The Help Group students through their competitions.

“This was the first time the Special Olympics has done an event like this, but they already contacted me afterwards and said that they hoped we could continue to do these kinds of things here at Harvard-Westlake,” Mori said.

While Mori was initially worried about liability being an issue in the event, he was assured by the quick support of the athletic department, administration and the trainer’s office.

Most of all, Mori was pleased with how emotional the event was for many people on campus.

“I’ve had faculty members tell me that certain parts of the ceremony almost brought them to tears,” Mori said. “I think the feeling and the vibe in the opening ceremony really touched people’s hearts.”