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Tri-Valley Special Olympics of Northern California Brings Joy to Participants and Volunteers

February 26, 2014

Tri-Valley Special Olympics of Northern CaliforniaA special tradition is quickly growing legs with each passing year. The Special Olympics games that had been traditionally held in Contra Costa County have now gained a solid footing in the Tri-Valley Region. The 2nd annual school-based Special Olympics Basketball Competition for pre-K to 5th graders took place last Friday at Harvest Park Middle School in Pleasanton. Thanks to an invitation from Eric Hamilton, Adaptive P.E. Specialist from the Dublin Unified School District, was able to witness this event.

The primary schools involved included those from Pleasanton, Dublin and the Livermore Unified School Districts. The games/competition is moderated to accommodate more than 400 student/athletes with differing abilities. The primary purpose is to ensure that all participants have the ability to join into the activities. The Harvest Park site was entirely appropriate as events took place both inside their gym as well as on the adjoining blacktop surface.

Tri-Valley Special Olympics of Northern California Dublin High School Robotics Club RobotFriday was a bright day and weather was not a negative factor. Cars, buses and neighbors on foot made their way into the primary gymnasium. After a rendition of the National Anthem, the pledge of allegiance and a reading of the Special Olympics credo, the games commenced. The courts were differentiated by skill set. Inside, there were competitive games occurring. Outside, skills exercises were executed. One of the stations featured a set up by the Dublin High School Robotics team which allowed participants to lead a basketball into a funnel which was mechanically launched towards the hoop. Many students took great pleasure in this activity.

For all involved, it was a great demonstration of community support. The consistent image was the presence of multiple layers of family members in support of their athletes. We had the opportunity to speak with many parents, neighbors, grandparents and friends of the participants from that day.

To personalize this event, we turned to Cindy Chase. She is an Adaptive Physical Education Specialist Lead from the Pleasanton Unified School District. She was kind enough to point out a Special Olympics volunteer in Mr. Bill Vane.

Bill is unique in that his involvement in Special Olympic started about 25 years ago. He was referred to the organization many years ago. At the time, he was an unknown quality. However, he quickly made his credentials known and has served the organization capably every since. He is a retired Physical Education teacher from East Avenue and Mendenhall Middle Schools. While he took a short break from his teaching career, he did return to the San Lorenzo Unified School District. As he is presently retired, Bill dotes upon his six grandchildren. However, this does not prevent him from devoting his time to his passion. Our discussion follows: You mentioned that you’ve volunteered for SONC events for many years.  Please describe why this is an important part of your life. 

Special Olympics Volunteer Bill VaneBill Vane: “I find a great joy in watching these special kids and the excitement they get when they achieve their goals.  When they can win a game with the last second shot or a base hit their excitement is priceless.”  You referee in the sport of basketball.  Is this the sport that you’re passionate about and/or do you participate in other sports?  Please explain. 

Vane: “Basketball is my most passionate sport, although as a PE teacher and coach I have taught all sports.  In high school I played baseball and basketball, in the Army I played softball, and continued to play softball into my fifties.  In college I played soccer, volleyball and golf.  I am now more passionate about officiating basketball and volleyball, as I feel our young people deserve to be taught how to play within the rules and with good sportsmanship.” The students that were present on Friday seemed to express great joy in the activities. Please express how it makes you feel to be a part of this enterprise.  

Vane: “As I said, there is no greater joy than watching these Olympians reach their goals. The joy on their faces, watching the excitement of their parents and watching their kids do something all on their own is beyond words.  I have a special place in my heart for these families and appreciate that I can do something to help them succeed.  I have always loved kids, which is why I became a teacher in the first place. But these kids are very special to and I enjoy the time I spend with them.” applauds all of the school sites, volunteers and students that made this event a resounding success. The vibe inside and outside of the gymnasium was very positive. Further, the expression on the faces of the participants would tell you everything. They were inspiring greatness.

Editor’s Note: The Special Olympics of Northern California Basketball event for students with special needs aged 11 through 22 will occur on March 7, 2014 at Pleasanton Middle School. Opening Ceremony will occur at 9:30 AM.

Contact Info: Eric Hamilton –

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