District 97 Special Olympics bocce ball bring in wins
Larry Landfair of Oak Park congratulates his daughter Kayla Landfair after she took her turn during a Sept. 15 bocce ball event at Grant Park Recreation Center in Northlake. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:14AM
OAK PARK — District 97’s bocce ball team has allowed special needs students to compete as the district’s first Special Olympics program.
“For some students, this is their first time on a team and as an official athlete,” coach Jordan Kripton said.
“In general, the program has been really well-supported,” coach Susan Hoyer said. “It’s a feel-good, fun program.”
Lisa Masucci, mother of student Jack Butler, believes bocce ball was the perfect sport to choose. Bocce was selected based on its team aspect.
“Every child, regardless of their disability, can participate,” Masucci said. “Even children with wheelchairs got a chance to play. The rules are straight-forward and easy for each child to understand.”
Masucci also emphasized how convenient it is for families with special needs children to have an extra-curricular activity available at Brooks Middle School.
The team recently competed in a regional bocce ball tournament at Grant Park in Northlake. Students practiced two times a week to prepare for the tournament.
Team coach Timothy McDonald said traditional teams, made up of students with disabilities, competed as singles, doubles and teams of four.
Unified teams, which include one student with disabilities paired with a peer buddy, also competed. Peer buddies included siblings and friends.
“The unified teams are great,” Masucci said. “It gives special needs children more interaction with their peers in an organized fashion.”
Many teams placed in first, qualifying them for state competition in June. Several other teams also received silver and bronze medals.
The Unified team of Kayla and Lawrence Landfair received a gold medal.
Lawrence is a sixth grade student and acted as coach to his sister Kayla, an eighth grade special needs student. Both attend Brooks Middle School.
“They work great together as a team,” father Larry Landfair said. “I’m so pleased with the school district to give this unique opportunity for the students.”
The traditional team of students Emma Romine and Jenna Ricks also won first place in their tournament.
“It was a really proud day for District 97,” Kripton said.
The district plans to add a winter event to the program next year. McDonald hopes to expand into Young Athletes, a sport and play program for children ages 2-7 with special needs.