Jimmy Arquilla, a Huber Heights native, has benefitted from the year-round sports training and competition. Now 26, Arquilla has been training and competing with the Special Olympics of Dayton since elementary school. Arquilla runs track, bowls, plays soccer and basketball and is on the local Special Olympics weightlifting team. Arquilla’s father, Jim, has also been a coach for local Special Olympics teams for more than 15 years.
“I can tell you that Special Olympics fundraising is so very important,” Jim Arquilla said. “Most of the time, whatever event the athletes choose to do, whether it’s bowling, track, soccer or whatever, it’s their time to shine. It’s their big moment of the year, and they can’t wait. For years, Jimmy ran the 400, and it was the biggest moment in his life. His mom and I were so proud. And then that he went into weightlifting. He was 155 pounds and he lifted 295 pounds. We were just amazed. I can’t tell you how much it means to all these kids.”
Jimmy Arquilla, right, and friend participate in a Special Olympics Ohio event. CONTRIBUTED.
Credit: Jim Arquilla
Credit: Jim Arquilla
When asked about how the Special Olympics has impacted his life, Jimmy Arquilla notes how the organization has helped improve his confidence and introduced him to many of his best friends to date. His father credits his large support system mostly to the local Special Olympics chapters.
“Before he started Special Olympics, he didn’t have any friends,” said Jim Arquilla. “It was just me and him. The Special Olympics was not only a way to get out and go places, but it also set up a structure to meet new people. He has friends all over the place. They still talk and it’s very social. They’re very social. It really means a lot to his mom and dad.”
Betsy Bankhurst, the Development Committee Chair for Special Olympics Ohio, first got involved in the organization through her sister, who has been on several Special Olympics Ohio teams since elementary school.
“I know firsthand how important it is for these athletes to build confidence and have engagement with their peers through sportsmanship, special events and other resources like education on health and wellness,” Bankhurst said.
Due to shutdowns resulting from the global pandemic, nearly all of the in-person activities and events hosted by the various branches of the Special Olympics have been canceled. To ensure that participants could still engage with one another and remain active, Special Olympics Ohio has, along with organizing this year’s version of the Polar Plunge, organized virtual events and put together care packages for thousands of members.
Arquilla has also been staying busy with Special Olympics-related events, despite the pandemic. The Montgomery County and Greene County branches have hosted Zoom meetings that provide interactive exercise classes, trivia and more for those members who especially need social interaction during this difficult time.
Participants must raise or donate $100 to take part in the Polar Plunge, and those who want to sign up to take part in Special Olympics Ohio Polar Plunge can do so on the organization’s website. Those who participate can film their Polar Plunge and post it to social media with the hashtags #MyPlunge, #PolarPlunge2021 and #SpecialOlympicsOhio. The challenge can be completed at any time in the month of February.
For more information about Special Olympics Ohio and Special Olympics of Greater Dayton, pay a visit to their websites.