Third-year medical student Andy Baumel had his arms full this weekend. Baumel, one of several dozen designated "huggers" at the eighth annual University-sponsored Special Olympics this weekend, was busy the entire day encouraging, hugging and providing the mentally handicapped athletes with the moral support they needed. "I'm with Kelvin," Baumel announced. "And he's gonna win the 50-meter dash!" And while Kelvin may not have won the race, the vital huggers were just part of a large contingent of volunteers from the University at Saturday's Special Olympics held at Franklin Field. Over 450 mentally handicapped athletes competed in seven different events for the traditional gold, silver and bronze medals, as well as multi-colored ribbons. There were also five non-competitive events open to all participants. The morning began with people scrambling around the stadium and asking over the loudspeaker "Does anyone know where the bowling pins are?" But before the day was over, the bowling pins were found and the Olympics were declared a success by organizers. Organizers stressed that the key to a successful Special Olympics is maintaining the level of competitiveness common in other sporting events, while letting the medical students who volunteer foster determination and community among the athletes. "I'm doing this for the same reason I'm becoming a doctor," second-year Medical student Art Jenkins said. "I think it's better to give than to receive." Medical students who volunteered said that although no one is forced to participate, the event is "the thing to do" since it provides an opportunity for the students to learn about themselves through helping others. Emotional speeches by former Philadelphia 76er Julius Erving, known to millions of basketball fans as "Dr. J" and Temple University Graduate Jim McGowan echoed throughout the stadium as both encouraged the athletes to keep pursuing their dreams. "You are standing on the shore of your great dream," McGowan said, "And you are about to enter the water." "My life has been touched by the Special Olympics effort," Erving added. "Life is a series of gives and takes. This is a way that I've chosen to give." But perhaps the most vivid moment of the Olympics was captured with one of the participants. In an emotional sequence detailing the sense of determination prevalent in the athletes, Diane Paige, proudly bragged of the gold medal she had captured in the Basketball-Spot Shot, as she triumphantly carried her young daughter Geraldine around the field with her. "I won first place!" she shouted repeatedly. "Look at my gold medal!"Comments powered by Disqus
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