LEMONT – Lemont High School’s Special Olympics team racked up 15 top-five finishes at a regional event in May at Thornwood High School.
The team’s success at the meet would not have been possible without help from classmates, teachers, the community and the Lemont Police Department.
Margie Pilarski, the first-year coach of the team and a special education teacher at Lemont High School, said volunteering for the Special Olympics is a rewarding experience.
“You see the kids reach a goal that they wanted,” she said. “It just fills your heart up, too.”
Pilarski volunteered for Special Olympics with her family while growing up and said she always wanted to be a coach, so she jumped at the opportunity to coach the team this year.
Preparation for the meet started after spring break.
Coaches introduced participants to the events, and team members each chose two events to compete in.
Volunteers helped team members learn rules and encourage one another.
Coaches timed runs and measured throws to submit to the meet organizers so the competitors would be put in an appropriate category.
Businesses and community members helped by donating T-shirts, hats, athletic apparel and signs.
On the day of the meet, the team was surprised with a police escort from the school to the highway. Pilarski said that was exciting for the team because it made them feel like they were famous.
The meet brought its share excitement, as the Lemont team members cheered each other on to five first-place finishes.
For Pilarski, one moment best summed up why Special Olympics is important.
Sophomore Nick Giedraitis was nervous in the moments leading up to the 100-meter run, as he waited for the race to start and see his parents in the stands. Before the race began, he noticed his parents out of the corner of his eye.
“When he saw his parents arrive, his face just lit up,” Pilarski said.
He won the race.
“Them knowing there’s someone proud of them, it means the world for them,” she said.
Some team members qualified for the state Special Olympics competition, but all of them opted out of participating.
Pilarski said this probably was because of the short notice and that she will make sure to let them know about the state games ahead of time next year.
Pilarski also wants to get more sponsors in the future, specifically to buy shoes for the team.