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An event that began a decade ago to give 30 San Benito High School Life Skills students an opportunity to experience the thrill of athletic competition has expanded into the Gifted Games, an Olympic-style event that celebrates the abilities of disabled students from throughout San Benito County and Gilroy.

This year’s event will be held Friday, May 15 starting at 9:30 a.m. at Andy Hardin Field, the high school’s stadium.

“It’s an amazing day where our students participate in a Special Olympics-type of event and the stands are full of students cheering us on,” said organizer Tania Sauer, who teaches at SBHS. Students from preschool age to those who have graduated high school will participate in the games, that feature an opening ceremony parade followed by track and field events such as the mile run, field events, wheelchair races, 50- and 100-yard dashes and more. The Baler Gifted Cheer team will also perform.

After a few years of being hosted only in Hollister, the Gifted Games has since alternated between San Benito High School and Gilroy High. The community is encouraged to attend and cheer on the participants. Teachers typically bring their students to fill the stands and cheer on their disabled classmates, who relish the spotlight and the chance to win medals for their athletic efforts.

The San Benito High School band will play during the opening ceremony, which will include the pledge of allegiance, the singing of the national anthem and a welcome from SBHS Principal Todd Dearden. Master of Ceremonies for the event is recently retired San Benito County School Superintendent Mike Sanchez, also known as “The Voice of the Balers” for his announcing at football games.

Baler bus driver Leila Swanson will be the grand marshal for the Gifted Games, presenting medals at the finish line for the dash events.