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DHS rallies to back Special Olympians

The Lawton Constitution - 3/1/2017

When Special Olympics are staged this spring in Lawton and in Stillwater, athletes from Duncan High School will arrive supported by perhaps the largest fan base of any team from anywhere.

Their fellow students at Duncan High are proving it this week.

There are 20 student Special Olympians at Duncan High, but this week their "team" includes 952 - the entire student body at DHS - who are joining in fundraisers to cover travel costs and other expenses for their friends to compete.

A special week of fundraising has been a part of the culture at DHS for several years. Friendly competitions held between senior classes and other classes, and even between students and good-natured teachers, are organized along with other activities, like a carnival held Sunday at the high school gym, with money raised pitched in to support good causes. According to Student Government President Graham Cox, more than $100,000 has been raised over the past half a dozen years. Money has been contributed to local needs like a new temporary emergency shelter for children and to things like a van with a special wheelchair lift for a former DHS student.

This year, Graham said, the goal of what's come to be known as HALO Week (it stands for Helpful Attitudes Leading Others) is to raise at least $10,000, which would cover all of the expenses of all of the DHS Special Olympics athletes at regional competitions planned for April in Lawton and at the Oklahoma Special Olympic Games slated for May in Stillwater.

Any money raised above and beyond $10,000 will be donated to the local Beautiful Day organization and to the Children's Miracle Network.

Cox said Duncan students have come out in force to make HALO Week a success. While other causes in other years have been wellsupported, students seem to have really embraced the idea of sending DHS Special Olympians to represent their school at the Special Olympics.

"We decided to make them a priority to represent themselves and us," Cox said. "Everybody's really excited and getting into it. I'm extremely confident that we'll make our goal."

Graham said he went to a team practice of Special Olympians on Monday morning and the teammates were "ecstatic" to know that their fellow students are supporting them 100 percent.

Team coach Toni Howard, a special education teacher at DHS for three years, said costs of traveling and competing in Special Olympics have been a little too high for Duncan students to meet in recent years, so that makes the support of their classmates even more meaningful.

"They are beyond thrilled," she said. I don't have words to express how excited they are."

The Special Olympians will compete in track and field events like a power walk, 50-yard dash, a softball throw and long jump, and they may very well bring home medals. But they've already won in many ways, according to Howard.

"I've been overwhelmed at how supportive our student body is and how they've come together to make sure that everybody gets to feel included," she said.

 
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