Homewood students gear up for Special Olympics
By Camille Smith Correspondent February 18, 2014 11:40AM
Jacob Jung, Sophia Youpel, Marc Ramirez and Neal Caauwe celebrate their victories at the local Area 7 Olympic Games. | Camille Smith~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 4, 2014 6:02AM
Four student-athletes from Homewood School District 153 soared at the Area 7 Special Olympics basketball tournament held in January. Marc Ramirez, Jacob Jung, Sophia Youpel and Neal Caauwe all received medals in the individual skills category.
“It’s a great honor to have medals,” Jacob said. “We love being a team and helping each other out.”
Marc received a bronze medal, and Neal received a silver medal.
Both Jacob and Sophia received gold medals, qualifying them to compete in the Special Olympics state basketball tournament held March 14 through 17 in Bloomington. The event is expected to attract more than 1,500 athletes from across the state.
Sophia, the only girl of the group, said she feels happy and nervous about the upcoming competition.
“I get butterflies in my stomach,” she said.
To help calm the students’ nerves, coaches Kathy Call, Sandra Pinsky and Emily Isom encourage the team during practices and competitions.
“We cheer for everyone,” Call said. “Even the parents cheer for children who aren’t theirs. Every athlete gets an award, everyone feels included. It’s a big social competition.”
Team basketball is the second category at the games.
Students competing in the individual skills category will demonstrate their shooting, dribbling and passing abilities, but the most important skill showcased is confidence.
“You see a huge transformation,” said Call. “In the beginning, some of them were not very talkative, but now they have this confidence, and that transfers to the classroom.”
Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the competition.
“Parents also gain something,” Pinsky said. “They love that their kids are involved in something that is fun and gets them active. It makes them proud.”
The three-day event is hosted at Horton Fieldhouse at Illinois State University and the Shirk Center at Illinois Wesleyan University.
For more information on the games, visit www.soill.org.