By Rachel Wilmans
The past few weeks have been exciting for PVI’s Options program, from dancing the night away at the Special Olympics dance to playing their hearts out at the Under the Lights Soccer tournament on Monday night, Oct. 19. The Panther athletes had a lot of support from their classmates as fellow PVI students cheered them on all week.
On Friday, Oct. 16, athletes from all over Northern Virginia came to PVI to attend one of the most highly anticipated Options events of the year: the Special Olympics dance.
Helena Klimon ‘16, president of Panther Pals at PVI, summed up the event as “loud, fun and joyous.” It was a great opportunity for PVI students to meet Special Olympics athletes from other areas and, most importantly, have a great time.
Klimon remembered one moment in particular when she and some friends were dancing with one of the athletes, and he threw his arms around Sarah Hosseinian ‘16 and Emilie Razuri ‘16, bringing smiles and laughter to all. Seventy PVI students volunteered to help at this event, getting the opportunity to meet all of the new athletes and have fun with classmates and alumni. The dance was a great way to kick off the weekend, and it only got better from there.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, PVI hosted the Special Olympics soccer tournament, a huge event that included over 350 athletes from this area (including several PVI Options alumni) and 87 PVI volunteers to cheer them on. The PVI athletes were split into two teams: freshman/sophomores and juniors/seniors. The F/S team went 1-1 for the day, defeating the Eagles Orange team but unable to overcome the dynamic offense of the team from GMU.
Mrs. Chris Desmarais, director of the PVI Options Program, remembered the beginning of the J/S game as one of her favorite moments of the day:
“Kate [Brockwell ‘16] got off of her scooter and Mr. Underhill walked her out to the field to make the first kick.” This strong start set the tempo for the game, and the J/S team edged out the White Oak Panthers with a 4-3 win, performing well all over the field. Finally, a PVI team with all grade levels took on the Alexandria Kicks, and though they fought hard, they were not able to pull out the win.
With four games down, the Panthers still were not done competing.
On Monday, Oct. 19th, PVI held the annual Under the Lights tournament, hosting 120 athletes. This was a huge event, with PVI’s dance and cheer teams, the pep band, announcers in the press box, and over 200 fans and volunteers coming to support the Options Program. Desmarais said, “these things make the tournament special because usually these athletes don’t have that kind of opportunity, but at Under the Lights, they have their own Sixth Man.”
The Sixth Man gave the Panthers a boost as the F/S team tied the Davis team 5-5 and the J/S team also ended in a draw of 4-4 in their game against Fairfax Police Youth Club.
Everyone played extremely well, and Olivia Baker ‘15 had a great weekend out on the field. Her favorite part? “Scoring goals! I had four.” The athletes all got medals and had a fantastic time competing.
The Options Program is one of the most unique and special parts of the PVI community, and events like these highlight just how much the students care about each other and the program.
“People who work with Options learn very quickly not to judge anyone based on any of their outward attributes and instead to love everyone for how God made them because as St. Francis de Sales said, ‘The measure of love is to love without measure,’” Klimon said. PVI students take her words to heart and wholeheartedly show their support for Options.
“The volunteers at Special Olympics and peer mentors during school hours warm my heart daily because I see authentic and genuine friendships blossoming,” Desmarais said. The events of the past few weeks have certainly allowed those friendships to grow, and hopefully they will continue to bloom throughout the rest of year.