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Schools Share Spirit of Special Olympics

Chatsworth | VALLEY FOCUS

March 26, 1996|DAVID E. BRADY

The message was simple: Everyone's a winner.

The occasion was an unusual event that brought together Special Olympics athletes and middle school students for a few hours of fun and games at a Chatsworth campus on Monday.

"Because of Special Olympics," Mindy Zazanis told the assembled crowd at Sierra Canyon School, "we are able to try new sports, make new friends, build our skills and have pride in ourselves. And it's fun."

And it was fun, not just for the athletes visiting from Leichman High School in Reseda, but also for the Sierra Canyon students who participated as amateur track-and-field officials during two events, the 50-meter dash and the shotput-like softball throw.

"Even though they have disabilities, they're still able to do a lot of things we can do," 11-year-old Nina Weiss observed.

Part of a yearlong focus on the Olympic Games, the two-hour event was an opportunity for the Sierra Canyon students to witness an actual competition up close, said Shelley Deutsch, who helped organize the competition.

"This is a fabulous organization doing really important work," she said of Special Olympics, "and I wanted to give them a forum to know how important they are and to get some support from the community."

Jeana Jorgensen, 13, who participated in the final event, a unified relay race with runners from both schools competing together, said it showed her classmates that disabilities need not be disabling.

"This focuses on what they can do, not what they can't do," she said.

Richard and Norma Robledo came out to watch their 15-year-old daughter, DeDe, win a first-place ribbon in the 50-meter dash and hugged her tightly when she ran over to show them her prize.

"It's good that they're being exposed to this," Richard Robledo said, watching students from both schools laughing and dancing together.

"It's good for them to realize there are differences in the world."

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