KENNEBUNK — On the morning of June 7 the atmosphere at Kennebunk Elementary School was filled with excitement as RSU 21’s student athletes began their yearly march onto the back field for the school district’s nod to the Special Olympics, called the Game of Champions.

Nearly all of KES turned out in support of the young athletes who ranged in age from 5 to 20. Each participant donned a Unified T-shirt and huge smile. Cheers could be heard from everyone as the students took to the field for three events: the 100 meter dash, softball toss and new this year, an obstacle course. Families of the student athletes lined the field, watching, cheering and occasionally assisting their child with an event.

Parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family members and friends shouted encouragement to the athletes as they competed.

Parents got the opportunity to chat with each other and swap stories. As one mom, Julie Baker, put it, “Today all our children are made to feel special by the whole school. It’s nice to see families of special needs kids come together and support one another. I’m so happy to have this event — both for my son and for the chance to talk to other parents.”

Baker’s son Nathan will enter middle school in the fall and Thursday was the perfect opportunity to seek advice from moms who already went through the transition.

Physical Education teacher Jon Woodcock was on hand to help with logistics of the days events, like he has from the beginning. “Five years ago the York County event was canceled due to rain and our principal at the time, Dr. Crowley, suggested we try doing it ourselves as a district. We received tremendous positive feedback from both students and staff. The parents were also pleased because wait times between events were much shorter due to having a smaller group size. I love seeing the student athletes be successful, it’s all about them today. It’s a great community event.”

KES Principal Ryan Quinn praised the event and noted that events like this nurture a child’s compassion for one another and helps to grow positive relationships throughout the whole district.

This year Mariel Leonard, a special education teacher from Mildred L. Day School in Arundel, took the lead in organizing the Game of Champions. An important task that paid off with a successful day of fun for the athletes, she said. Leonard said there were approximately 50 students participating from the district.

“It’s nice to see the community come together today to celebrate these students, to make connections," she said.

Second grade athlete Abby Pare said the event was "really fun." "I had a really great time with all my friends,” she said.

Kennebunk High School student Olivia Sayer agreed. “Today gives kids opportunities to do stuff they normally would not do. The obstacle course was my favorite event,” she said.

After the three events concluded, a brief ribbon ceremony gave each athlete the opportunity to take the stand and receive recognition.