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By Zach Cavanagh

More than 200 student-athletes participated in the Capistrano Unified School District’s Special Olympics event on Monday, April 15 at Dana Hills High School.

Students from San Clemente, Dana Hills and Tesoro high schools and Marco Forester, Niguel Hills and Newhart middle schools participated in track and field events at the Dana Hills stadium.

“It’s great for all of our special education programs to come together,” San Clemente education specialist Jeff Ridley said. “What’s the best about this event is the kids get to see their friends from other schools. The communities that these kids represent all know each other. The kids know each other, the parents know each other. This is a way they can all meet and mix with each other.”

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This was the second of two CUSD Special Olympics events; the first was contested in the fall at San Clemente High School.

Students participated in running, jumping and throwing events, as well as playing cornhole games, dancing to music and mingling with friends and members of the Dana Hills Best Buddies club on the field.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Jesus Cabrera, senior manager of sports programs for the Special Olympics Orange County region. “It allows more students to participate in an opportunity to experience Special Olympics and what we offer through sports training and competition. It’s a great way for people to recognize the potential abilities of these student-athletes.”

Each student partnered with a Best Buddies member from Dana Hills, and they were all outfitted with an event T-shirt provided by the CTCN Foundation. The CTCN Foundation, pronounced “The Citizen Foundation” and standing for Coming Together for Children in Need, was founded by Dana Hills alumni to help the Orange County community.

“The CTCN Foundation raises funds for special-needs kids at the high school level,” said Alexander Eisner, CTCN Foundation CEO. “It cropped up at Dana Hills about three years ago, and we’re branching out to other CUSD schools. We just raise money and spend it doing awesome things like this. We put a shirt on every Olympian.”

Opening ceremonies were held in the Dana Hills gym, featuring remarks from Dana Hills principal Dr. Josh Porter, who was joined by Michelle Steel of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and Cabrera of the Special Olympics.

The event was organized by the Special Olympics Southern California, CUSD and the CUSD STEPS (Structured Teaching Educating Prepared Students) programs.

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