Shrewsbury’s Special Olympians arrive home to heroes’ welcome

0
219

Mens’ Basketball team won silver medal in World Games in Abu Dhabi

The team poses for a photo with Board of Selectmen Chair John Lebeaux, Selectman Moe DePalo and Angela Snell, Shrewsbury Director of Public Facilities, at Shrewsbury Town Hall.

By Melanie Petrucci
Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – The Special Olympics USA Men’s Basketball team returned home to Shrewsbury March 23 to the cheers and warm wishes of their local fans. The team placed second, winning the silver medal in the Special Olympics World Games held March 14-21 in Abu Dhabi, losing a close match in the finals to Great Britain, 26-20. Regardless of the outcome, the team and their supported noted they experienced much more than competition throughout the three weeks they were far from home.

On a sunny but chilly morning, the team arrived at Town Hall just before 10 a.m, and was welcomed by a crowd of approximately 50 greeters ranging from family, friends, supporters and community leaders. The team was tired but very happy.

“It is a great honor and privilege to join with you today as we welcome home our champions,” said John Lebeaux, the chair of the Board of Selectmen, in brief remarks to the assembled. “They brought us home some silver medal gravy.”

He then gave a “shout out” to Olympian Matt Millett, who made an ESPN Play of the Day with his Hail Mary ¾ half court shot to help win their match against Canada, 35-18 on March 19, advancing them to the final round.

Millett thanked everyone who came out to show their support.

When Ryan Dixon, team member, was asked how the experience was for him, he said that it was “Perfect!”

Don Grady was one of the residents who came out to welcome the team home.

“I think they did a great job and I’m very, very proud of them and I’m proud of the town and community. I’ve been in town for 56 years and I was on the School Committee and they’ve always been a strong part of the community – I’m just proud of everybody,” he said.

Virginia Davidson’s son, Colin, was one of the athletes who competed.

“I am exhausted with happiness. It was an absolutely wonderful trip but we learned so much about the people of Abu Dhabi. They are so kind and welcoming. Every one of us said this is our second home,” she said.

“There are 91 different nationalities of people living there and two days before the games ended they announced that by law all schools would be schools of inclusion,” she noted. “Children in Abu Dhabi who never had education previously, due to their disabilities would now, by law, be educated and that’s what it’s about.”

Angela Snell, Shrewsbury’s Director of Public Facilities, announced that Special Olympic track and field begins Thursday, March 28 and co-ed volleyball will begin shortly thereafter.  For more information, visit: www.specialolympicsma.org, or shrewsburyma.gov/414/Special-Needs-Program.

photos/Melanie Petrucci

Returning Olympians and supporters in front of Shrewsbury Town Hall
Olympian Ryan Dixon, with his mother and grandmother, chat with Shrewsbury Police Detective Lt. James Lonchiadis at Shrewsbury Town Hall.