G-A student-athletes compete in G-lympics as fans cheer them on

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

High-schoolers launched some powerful soccer kicks into the net, elementary students couldn’t stop themselves from running a little bit during the 50-yard walk and Vargas, a support dog, was close to the action sporting an event bandanna.

Emmitt Leppo, a primary autistic support student, competed in the football toss at the Greencastle-Antrim School District’s 2022 G-lympics on May 12.

Those were a few of the scenes on Greencastle-Antrim School District’s Kaley Field during the second annual G-lympics Thursday, May 12.

The competition for K-12 autistic support and life skills students was launched in 2021 by teacher Susan Wright after the Franklin County Special Olympics was cancelled for the second time due to COVID-19.

Wright teaches K-5 life skills and is retiring at the end of the year. She called it amazing that the Greencastle-Antrim Education Foundation has partnered with the learning support teachers to ensure the continuity of the G-lympics.

Susan Wright, K-5 life skills teacher in the Greencastle-Antrim School District, took a break with her students Sophia Maddox and A.J. Figueroa, during the 2022 G-lympics on May 12.

GAEF is the nonprofit whose mission is to impact and enhance the educational experience of G-A students through support of academics, the arts and athletics.

When Superintendent Lura Hanks asked about GAEF getting involved in the G-lympics, the vote was unanimous before a motion was even made, said Vernon McCauley, GAEF president.

“We’re supplying the volunteers,” said McCauley, who added GAEF board members Garon Gembe of Graphics Universal and John McDowell of GoSports Turf, stepped forward to underwrite 100% of the costs.

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“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to support these student-athletes. I think it’s going to be one of the most fulfilling experiences we’ll have throughout the year,” McCauley said. “This is who we want to be as an organization.

“These student-athletes are just as important as any athletes playing on Kaley Field,” he continued. “Today is their day … it’s all about them.”

Greencastle-Antrim Middle School autistic support students, from left, Liam Gaddis, Josie Thomas and Riley Carbaugh took a break during the 2022 G-lympics May 12 on Kaley Field.

The games began with the national anthem and, although this was not an official Special Olympics event, the pledge: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

Students, teachers, staff and volunteers wearing gray T-shirts emblazoned with a torch, Olympic-style rings and “2022 G-lympics” in blue and gold, the district colors, rotated through stations including the 50-meter run, 50-meter walk, soccer kick, beanbag toss and football and softball throws.

Liam Chilcote, an elementary autistic support student, had a shark painted on his face by Greencastle-Antrim High School Art Club member Grace Rowan during the 2022 G-lympics on May 12.

Many of the competitors and more than a few supporters had colorful face or arm paintings, courtesy of the Greencastle-Antrim High School Art Club.

High school Peer Leaders manned the events, encouraged the athletes and rallied fans in the stands and along the fence.

Greencastle-Antrim High School life skills students lined up against the fence at Kaley Field during the 2022 G-lympics on May 12, while supporters stood behind them with signs bearing pictures of their faces.

Throughout the day, classes from all the schools made their way to Kaley Field to cheer on G-lympics participants. They yelled, waved homemade signs of support, stomped their feet on the bleachers and did the Wave.

Students waved posters and cheered from the stands as Greencastle-Antrim life skills and autistic support students competed in the 2022 G-lympics on May 12.

Chad Stover, supervisor of student services, kept everyone apprised of the action on the field and enthusiastically broadcast information about each student-athlete.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com