Athletes from Hollister High march around the track during the opening ceremonies of the May 5 Gifted Games. Photo: Courtesy of San Benito High School District

Hollister High School’s Andy Hardin Stadium was transformed into an Olympic-style venue on May 5, as more than 400 students with disabilities from 20 schools in San Benito and southern Santa Clara counties competed in the annual Gifted Games. 

After a six-year hiatus, this year’s event was a grand celebration of inclusivity and opportunity, showcasing the courage and strength of the athletes in a fun and competitive environment, according to San Benito High School District spokesperson Adam Breen. 

The opening ceremony set the tone for a day filled with excitement and achievement. After the athletes marched around the track and onto the field, Hollister High School Principal Adrian Ramirez welcomed the participants and crowd, followed by the posting of colors by Hollister Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9242, and the National Anthem by Hollister High School student Julia Magdei and the American Sign Language 4 class, Breen said in a press release. 

Master of ceremonies Mike Sanchez, the “Voice of the Balers,” welcomed the athletes and spectators, and the games began. 

The Gifted Games comprised a series of events—including the mile race, field events, wheelchair races and dash events—where elementary, middle and high school students participated with equal enthusiasm, according to the press release. 

The Gifted Games is a community effort, made possible by the hard work and planning of the Hollister High School Special Education Department staff members, more than 100 students, community sponsors and volunteers. 

Special Education program alumnus Adam Bell took photographs at the event, and Kneaded Bakery & Catering and Rebekah Children’s Services donated $1,500 and handled the ordering of the food for the lunches provided to athletes and staff. In addition, the Hollister Fire Department and Hollister High School’s sports medicine students were on hand to provide medical services. 

“Today’s Gifted Games was a triumph of courage and strength, where athletes with unique abilities showcased their exceptional talents in a competitive environment,” said Brianna Teimoorian, one of the event organizers. “We are proud to host this event, which has grown from a small gathering to a multi-county celebration of inclusivity and opportunity. We are grateful to our community partners, volunteers and sponsors who made this day possible.”

The Gifted Games concluded with the medal ceremony, awarding athletes for their outstanding performances and effort. Parents, teachers, aides and members of the community were invited to attend the event and cheer on the athletes. 

The athletes demonstrated that their unique abilities make them unstoppable, and the Hollister community came together to celebrate their achievements. 

Due to storm damage at the old Andy Hardin Stadium, the Gifted Games were held at Gilroy High School for a number of years. It was slated to return to Hollister in May 2020, but those plans were derailed by the pandemic, SBHSD Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum said in an email newsletter.

The event was held at the new stadium last year, but only Hollister High School students participated. Prior to that, organizers adapted and held a virtual event, in which video examples of the events were given to participating schools to do over the week, and a Zoom conference-style meeting was held on the Friday of the event to have peer students lead exercises and have all of the athletes acknowledged in a slide presentation. The athletes received certificates for their participation.

“We are proud to be able to once again host the Gifted Games, which has expanded from humble beginnings into a celebration of inclusivity and opportunity for students with disabilities throughout our county and southern Santa Clara County,” Tennenbaum said. 

ollister High School students were among the athletes who competed in the May 5 Gifted Games at Andy Hardin Stadium. Photo: Courtesy of San Benito High School District
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