A global and social movement, the team for the Special Olympics strives to transform the lives of aspiring athletes through teamwork, sportsmanship, and the overall joy of achievement and friendship. Through various athletics they successfully promote acceptance and inclusion for everyone, and they advocate for the well-being of those with neurological disabilities.
The program is designed for people in the community who have neurological and physical disabilities, but they also cater to those athletes who do not have these disabilities–unified partners–who pair up with the other athletes and compete alongside them for support and overall love for the games.
Because of the threat of COVID-19, competitions and events have been few and far between to ensure the health and safety of the athletes, coaches, and volunteers throughout the season. This year, however, the hard workers associated with the Special Olympics have reopened prospects of competition while maintaining social-distancing guidelines and keeping everyone safe. To kickstart the season they have implemented “Return to Play,” an after-school program for kids and older athletes to gather safely on a smaller scale while still gaining that camaraderie the Special Olympics seeks to instill.
The Terrebonne Parish program is run by Jella Breaux, who first got into LASO (Louisiana Special Olympics) upon seeking a physical and fun outlet for her son. She explains, “Regular recreation at TPR didn’t fit. A friend of mine suggested the Special Olympics program under TPR, and right away we clicked.” Since then, Breaux and her son have been active members.
This program out of Terrebonne Parish, which has around two-hundred athletes, coaches, and unified partners, falls under the Bayouland Region alongside Lafourche, St. Charles, and St. James. When competition rolls around, these parishes compete against one another as a way of choosing which athletes are chosen to move forward and participate in the state-wide and country-wide events. The Terrebonne program hosts athletes ranging from ages six to seventy-years-old, all of whom participate in sports and activities catered specifically to promote good sportsmanship and overall unity.
Hosts in Terrebonne offer a wide variety of sports and athletics including swimming, powerlifting, bowling, tennis, softball, and track & field. Breaux revealed that the Terrebonne program also offers bocce ball, basketball, tee ball, and flag football as well. Recently, the Terrebonne Basketball team “The Storm” just returned home with three Golds in the State Basketball Skills Event. (Pictured above are Klay Bergeron, Marek Breaux, Ethan Skoglund)
Coaches will lead their athletes through eight consecutive weeks of training, drills, and skill checks before inevitably competing. In 2018, they sent eight Louisiana athletes to Seattle for the USA games, which are the national-level events. Right now LASO coaches are training the athletes and preparing them for the 2022 games, which will be held in Orlando, Florida.
When they are not practicing, athletes band together with their coaches, Unified partners, and several community volunteers to fundraise and promote the youth group. Breaux explains that “everything [they] do—the fundraising, the tournaments, the volunteering—is for the athletes.” LASO hosts hold bowling tournaments at Creole Lanes in Houma to raise money and awareness, and they are currently organizing a plate-lunch fundraiser for the community.
On Monday, March 22 through April 4, Rouses Markets will be hosting an in-store campaign benefiting Special Olympics Louisiana! Look for the photo below at the register when you check out and ask the cashier to scan to donate $1 to SOLA.
To learn more about the Terrebonne program and what it offers, email Breaux at firstname.lastname@example.org, and to inquire about the Special Olympics, what they have to offer and how you can help, visit www.laso.org.