Is community a place, or is it a relationship?
The fact is, it’s both. Most often we think of community as a physical place, while it escapes us that it exists as a relationship. But no matter how we spin it, there is no denying that the 2018 Special Olympics brought out the best in the Bloomfield community.
Hosting an event of this caliber pushed the capacity of Bloomfield High school. Harboring over 600 athletes for the day, plus their families and spectators from their respective schools, on top of the 150 or so volunteers from Bloomfield and surrounding areas would have posed a challenge for the small school. But thanks to the recent facilities upgrade and the luck of the beautiful weather on May 18th, the event went on without a hiccup.
Jon Mastin, Athletic Director and coach at Bloomfield High School, was nervous at first to test the new facilities with such a large event. But he found himself very moved to see the stadium being put to use. “A lot of time and energy went into the planning and construction of the stadium as well. It is certainly a point of pride for me, the district and the community. It was awesome to have the opportunity to both show it off and utilize it for its intended purpose,” he explained. “To see one of our students stand in front of a capacity crowd with all of his coaches and peers surrounding him on the track was very moving. That moment made it all worth it.”
Not only Mastin, but other members of the community found themselves emotionally charged when watching the day’s events unfold.
“To narrow it down to one meaningful experience is difficult because it truly was a coordination of enthusiasm and efforts to make it all come together so well,” said Margaret Tiffany, one of the days volunteer coordinators and lifelong Bloomfield resident. “The excitement and anticipation of the athletes, the willingness of so many young people to act as volunteers in any capacity, and the overwhelming response from our school community as well as our wider community, combined to make for a truly beautiful day.”
Margaret is someone who understands the importance of the relationship of community. She herself is one who sees community in action, beyond the physical town limits, but in the real interactions between people. As the seamstress for every Bloomfield school play and coordinator of the annual community service event — Go Make A Difference day (GO M.A.D.), Margaret understands community building, and always makes an effort to teach others to see it the way she does.
“It is my hope that an experience like the one we were fortunate to have will create a new or expanded openness to interacting with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The sheer number of volunteers we had leads me to believe that people want that connection. I’ve never experienced a volunteer effort that was wrapped up in more warmth and love,” she added.
The Special Olympics aren’t just important to Bloomfield, but everywhere they touch. This organization and the opportunities they provide are a precious asset to the movement towards one whole humanity. A world where there is no such thing as segregation based on ability or anything else, only the respectful recognition of differences.
Nelson Mandela spoke at the Special Olympics summer games in Dublin in 2003 celebrating the success of the games. “Special Olympics gives telling testimony to the indestructibility of the human spirit and of our capacity to overcome hardships and obstacles. You, the athletes, are ambassadors of the greatness of humankind.”
Mastin hopes that Bloomfield can move toward the development of a Unified program. Amidst the process of researching and working towards developing a Unified Sports program. “Perhaps us hosting the Special Olympics and the relationships that we were able to form with the individuals at Special Olympics New York will provide us with the traction that we need to offer increased opportunities for the athletes at Bloomfield,” he continued.
Events like the Special Olympics are incredibly important, not only for inclusion purposes but also for community building opportunities. A lack of education breeds a lack of acceptance and understanding. The more we allow the ourselves to come into contact with ways of life different than our own, the closer we all become to things we don’t understand, the more we can understand them, and the more we can allow ourselves to realize that maybe we aren’t all that different.
And maybe education and understanding can lead to a tomorrow with a more whole human community.
FL1 Reporter Addilys Geitner is an intern from Nazareth College in Rochester. The junior has roots in Bloomfield, but is reporting on stories throughout the Western Finger Lakes. Follow Addilys on Twitter @AddilysGeitner, or email email@example.com