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New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

Community support helps Special Olympics athletes get closer to victory at upcoming state meet

As the school year comes to an end, Special Olympics athletes and volunteers work toward a gold medal
Juniors Avery Doblin and Tommy Fritzsche help during the fundraiser for Special Olympics program on April 6

Editor’s Note: Ellie Jarmel is a reporter on staff at the New Trier News and took the featured photo for this article. Her sister is interviewed in the article. Ellie did not contribute to the writing, reporting, or editing of this story.

On Saturday, April 6, the Enriching Lives through Service (ELS) club hosted a fundraiser at the Winnetka and Glencoe Starbucks from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., where they raised over $8,000 to send Special Olympics athletes to the state track meet June 7-9. 

Throughout the school year, ELS club holds two fundraisers at local Starbucks locations. However, the club had to cancel the one typically held in fall. 

Despite the challenges, “This year was great,” Special Education Department Chair Sean Clemenz said. 

In addition to having a table set up and holding posters, club members shared a speech they prepared about the fundraiser and the Special Olympics program in order to get people to donate. 

“People will stop and listen,” Clemenz said. “Most people don’t know about ELS but they know about Special Olympics, so that pulls them in and they donate,” Clemenz said.

The Special Olympics program at New Trier High School is an after-school athletics program where over 40 student athletes and over 140 student volunteers play sports and go to games and meets throughout the school year. 

This year, five students qualified for the state track meet: seniors Kate Winslow and Lizzie Nash and Transition Center students Aeden Salama, Matthew Moran, and Alec Blum. Through tradition, every athlete stays involved for the rest of the season to help promote team spirit. 

“Our whole team goes with [the athletes to state]. I’ve been here since 2005, and I think we’ve gone [to state] every year. It’s a longstanding tradition,” Clemenz said.

Senior Sophie Jarmel, Special Olympics coach and ELS leadership board member, joined Special Olympics and ELS club her freshman year. Both clubs give her the opportunity to make amazing connections and friendships while also seeing the students’ growth. As a Special Olympics coach, she loves watching the athletes improve every week and be a part of a team. 

“The progress is amazing,” Jarmel said. “Last year, I worked a lot with Jimmy Harrison during the basketball season. We worked on all kinds of skills, from shooting to dribbling to defense. At last year’s home basketball game, Jimmy scored the game winning basket. It was an amazing moment.”

Most people don’t know about ELS but they know about Special Olympics, so that pulls them in and they donate

— Sean Clemenz

Special Olympics is so much more than just track and field or basketball.

“[It] is the perfect embodiment of school spirit at New Trier,” Jarmel said.

Even though the track season is over, junior Tommy Fritzsche, a Special Olympics athlete, looks forward to what the rest of this year and the next year holds. 

“My favorite sport we play is soccer and we are doing that now,” Fritzsche said. “I’m excited to play tennis too.”

Even though playing sports just at school is fun, the best part for Fritzsche is competing against other schools. 

“Playing basketball tournaments against other schools is my favorite part,” Fritzsche said. “I like Loyola because my older brother went there and my sister goes there now.”

Unlike after school clubs, members of ELS club participate whenever they can during  their free periods. ELS club members spend time in special education classrooms with the students and teachers. 

Even if students do not have free periods to attend ELS club or are unavailable on Wednesdays from 6-7 p.m. to go to Special Olympics, there are many other ways to get involved. 

“New Trier offers High Five Choir and Art Essentials, which are made for people of all abilities and integrate general and special education through a variety of art forms,” Jarmel said. “I’ve taken both and they are awesome.”

ELS club also holds monthly parties, which serves as a great opportunity to meet new people.

“This year has flown by, and our final party is right around the corner,” Jarmel said. “On May 10, from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Winnetka scrounge, we are hosting a graduation party to celebrate our seniors. We will have all kinds of games and activities.”

Even though New Trier pays for much of the expenses for the trip to Bloomington-Normal where the Special Olympics state meet is held, these fundraisers help fund other programs as well. 

“The fundraiser raised enough money to cover the money for State this year and next year, pay for activities for next year, and help with the scholarships we provide. Several years ago, we began providing two scholarships to two different students with an Individualized Education Plan,” Clemenz said.

One scholarship that ELS club provides is the Breaking Boundaries Scholarship, which gives students with disabilities options after graduating from New Trier. ELS club is still accepting donations on Revtrak to continue to fund this program.

Without the love the community has for New Trier and its students, programs like Special Olympics would not be as successful as they are.

“It’s amazing to me how much money we are able to raise,” Clemenz said. “It’s two things that draw people in: often they hear Special Olympics and want to help, but a lot of times they just hear New Trier. They’ll say, ‘I went to New Trier’ or ‘My kids go there’ or ‘My dad went there’ or ‘My mom taught there.’ It’s amazing to me how supportive people are of the school.”

For students interested in joining either ELS club or Special Olympics, ELS has a page on the New Trier website with a link to sign up for the club. You can also follow ELS club on Instagram for updates on parties and ways to get involved. Special Olympics membership is done more informally—you can email Clemenz at [email protected] for more information.

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  • A

    May 15, 2024 at 8:46 am

    I was an athlete since the 90s. It’s especially in special Olympics special Olympics. You know, they exploit people. That’s exactly what they do I have proof of that and I’ve never been affected from any money raised in the special Olympics. It is for the CEO’s and people to enrich themselves. Special Olympics has never given me. Or my family a dollar. I’m actually filing a lawsuit against their program because they don’t believe that we have rights in America to make money or have jobs, we are slaves. You can Google me Ashton Smith special Olympics. It is literally modern day slavery for disabled people. And you can also Google special Olympic Texas Confederate flag. They abuse and rape people in their program. I’ve been in this since the 90s, so what does they tell you?