Canyon Lakers shine in Special Olympics

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Canyon Laker Bill Loeser-VanDyke took part in the softball throw, throwing 170 feet. Photos by Pat Van Dyke

Canyon Laker Bill Loeser-VanDyke took part in the softball throw, throwing 170 feet. Photos by Pat Van Dyke

Canyon Lake athletes, teachers, cheerleaders, parents and friends were present to take an active role in the 6th annual Lake Elsinore Unified School District Special Olympics on May 27 at Lakeside High School.

After getting postponed because of rain two Fridays in a row, the event finally was held on a Wednesday, proving that “the third time is the charm.”

Special Olympics Southern California Inland Empire Region personnel helped make the goal of the Special Olympics become a reality in the life of every participant. The Special Olympics Inland Empire Region offers year-round sports training and competitions for athletes in all of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

Canyon Lakers Hanna Scott, at left, and Dakoda Chavez, at right, along with Karyl Suarez, were on hand to cheer the special athletes.

Canyon Lakers Hanna Scott, at left, and Dakoda Chavez, at right, along with Karyl Suarez, were on hand to cheer the special athletes.

The goal of Special Olympics is to provide training for life. The program not only provides people with intellectual disabilities with physical fitness and athletic competition, but also social interaction, community involvement and empowerment.

On this day at Lakeside High School, this goal was achieved, says Canyon Lake resident and photographer Pat Van Dyke, whose grandson, Bill Loeser-VanDyke took part in the event. Bill is part of LEUSD’s Adult Transitional Program, where Andrew Graham, another Canyon Lake resident, is his teacher.

“We are blessed to have a fellow Canyon Laker as a positive influence in Bill’s life,” says Pat.

Canyon Laker Katie Woodward won a gold medal in the 50 meter run.

Canyon Laker Katie Woodward won a gold medal in the 50 meter run.

Another Canyon Lake participant was Katie Woodward, who won a gold medal in the 50 meter run. Katie attends Canyon Lake Middle School, which sent several cheerleaders to cheer on its special athletes.

“Lake Elsinore Unified School District is to be congratulated for providing an outstanding program to help those with special needs reach their highest potential,” says Pat. “Just to see the smiles on the faces and the interaction between the participants made the event one to be attended year after year. The excitement was indeed contagious.”

Pat notes that, during the opening ceremonies, which included the lighting of the Olympic Torch, the sun broke through on the gray May Day and it became a “great May day!” Even if the sun hadn’t shown up, the athletes were shining.

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Sharon Rice