Eighth Graders Serve Fellow Students at Friendship Games


Spencer Cohen

Eighth graders Ali Brown and John Vincent Janin help some of the special-need students run the 100-yard dash.

Each year, The Benjamin School’s eighth grade hosts the Friendship Games, where more than 400 special needs students from all over Palm Beach County have a unique opportunity to compete in a number of athletic events and games. The TBS students help officiate those events, run the face paint tables, distribute medals and ribbons, and encourage the competitors.
The initiative began 14 years ago with only seventy-five participants. The event has since grown, attracting hundreds of disabled students to the games, which are held outside on the Upper School Campus each year.

Spencer Cohen
Some of the younger participants, with assistance from eighth grader Sai Chigurupati, pick out tennis balls for the long-distance throw competition.

According to English Department Chair Mrs. Kathleen Devine, who organizes the annual event, the Friendship Games are “a true community service act [to help] those who are less fortunate.” She also calls the event “the best day of eighth grade” because the eighth graders selflessly give of themselves to make the day enjoyable for students in elementary school all the way up through high school.

The 2018 Friendship Games took place on January 26, and the students and teachers enjoyed the beautiful weather and smiling faces of all those who participated. There were 100-yard dashes, softball throws, long jumps, face painting, pizza, and many more fun and exciting activities. Eighth graders were busy helping close to 430 special needs students run, throw, and play for most of the day. The students were from all different public schools, such as Allamanda Elementary School, Jupiter Middle School, Watson B. Duncan Middle School, Jupiter High School, and William T. Dwyer High School.

“I really liked watching and cheering on the special needs athletes,” said eighth grader Ella Hayes. “I hope I can come back to this next year. I like giving back to the community because I am so lucky, and love helping the less fortunate. ”

“Everyone was so nice and welcoming – I loved the event, and it really matched my experience of Special Olympics in past years,” added eighth grader Lucy Campbell.
The faculty and administrators who attended also enjoyed the day.

“I love the games because I like seeing the nature of participants smiling and enjoying getting their gold medals,” said Dean of Students Mr. Jeffery Cavallo. “I also like watching our students gaining the experience of helping less able kids complete the events.”

Spencer Cohen
Eighth grader Zach Loceff helps record on a name tag what place a young competitor finished.

Eighth grader Zach Loceff was really impacted by the Friendship Games. “I really like this event,” he said. “It even inspired me to write my TED Talk about it. The talk is about how I met a personable kid who I am happy to call a friend. I was impacted heavily and love giving back to the community. It really impacted me because I have just started helping special needs kids since last year, [and] I love it.”