There were cheerleaders and referees, a pep band and a sports announcer, a concession stand and a full parking lot.
In many ways, Thursday’s Pack the Gym event was a lot like a typical Capital High School basketball game, according to junior Paige Schieferstein, 16.
But the Special Olympics athletes who participated in the event made a huge difference, she said.
“I love seeing them be so happy,” Schieferstein said.
About 400 people attended the event, which raised about $1,500, according to Capital High principal Chris Woods.
The tournament featured basketball games and other activities such as obstacle courses and teamwork competitions. About 85 athletes ages 8-62 participated, according to Mark Barker, project coordinator for the Thurston County Special Olympics.
It was an event to prepare the local Special Olympics teams for a regional basketball tournament that was held
over the weekend in Bremerton, and the state tournament in Wenatchee that’s scheduled for Feb. 28, he said.
The organization was in contact with school officials last fall in hopes of getting the tournament underway. Capital senior Chelsea Lamoreaux volunteered to organize the event as her culminating project.
“It’s like the last requirement that you need to graduate,” she said. “You do a project that’s learning about a career.”
Lamoreaux secured the gym and organized the program, which included an awards ceremony for the athletes. She will have to make a presentation about it, too.
“I thought the challenges would be connecting with the athletes, but it wasn’t,” she said. “I think the hard part was setting it all up.”
She promoted the event mostly through social media sites and with fliers. Her advertising budget was $50, Lamoreaux said.
School officials are already talking about making the tournament an annual event.
Capital senior Hailee Pritchett thinks that’s a great idea.
“When they came in here, we almost started crying,” she said. “They put a smile on everybody’s face.”
During the tournament, athletes danced along with the pep band’s songs, gave each other high-fives and watched while their friends were on the court.
“It’s wonderful,” said athlete Keith Semple, 33, who has been playing basketball with Thurston County Special Olympics for about five years. “I’m glad to be here.”
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org @Lisa_Pemberton