Pack the Gym Night supports Special Olympics

The Special Olympics team practiced for the fourth annual Pack the Gym Night March 6.
John Anderson is the one of the coaches for the Special Olympics team and has been doing it for a while.
“I have been involved with the Special Olympic since 1982, both as a volunteer and then I was a power lifting director for 18 years. [I] set up and ran [the event] and did training and everything else. When I came to Puyallup, I continued the idea but I wanted to coach, so I came in and helped with basketball and worked with the kids,” Anderson said. “Miss Ann Carpenter started it some 28 to 30 years ago she was an educator here for 32 years, she has been in charge of it. She has since retired but we are working on that, she has been doing other things too so we are working on that together as a group.”
Junior Dylan Simmons is one of the peer coaches for the Special Olympics team. Simmons brings awareness to Pack the Gym Night.
“We had a Pack the Gym Night on Friday. We need people to come support the Special Olympics team [at the next one],” Simmons said.
All of the Special Olympics games people see, even at the junior highs, were inspired by the Puyallup High School Pack the Gym Night.
Coach of the Special Olympics team, Anderson, described how Pack the Gym Night began.
“We started Pack the Gym Night about four years ago as a theme to highlight the Special Olympics athletes playing basketball. We challenged Rogers High School at the time and it has become an annual event across the district for the schools hosting and around the area to. People have run with the idea of pack the gym night all the way to other districts,” Anderson said. “We started the idea of Pack the Gym highlighting the kids making a big deal of making a big deal of special Olympic athletes.”
Pack the Gym Night would have consisted of two basketball games.
“Ms. Muiznieks, the athletic director set up a game between the Puyallup staff vs the Rogers staff as a challenge remember our original premise, Mr. Smith was here now he is up at Rogers so we are trying to set up a game to play each other,” Anderson said.
The staff game did not end up happening.
The Special Olympics students competed in the second game.
Junior Andrew Sablan was one of the coaches at Friday’s game. Sablan shared his thoughts on his relationship with the team.
“I was unsure about joining the team at first. My friend just told me it would be fun. After I joined I saw what he meant. All of the players on the team are just fun to be around and to play with. I did not know a lot of them before but once I met them I realized how funny and nice they were,” Sablan said.
Simmons has enjoyed working with the students because of the player’s competitive nature.
“I am a peer coach, so basically I play with them. We have two peers and three athletes usually and they mainly score the points. We are really just out there to help them out. It is really fun getting to play with the athletes and it is actually really competitive just like a regular basketball game,” Simmons said.
Pack the Gym Night acts as a fundraising opportunity for the Special Olympics in Los Angeles, CA. Those who attend the game must either bring a canned food item or $1 for admission.
Anderson explained the reason behind raising money and canned food items at Pack the Gym Night.
“We are trying to raise money for our Special Olympic athletes to carry the torch when we are heading toward Washington State and heeding towards California,” Anderson said. “Like the regular Olympics but, they do the different events. We have an opportunity of having a chance to run with the torch like they do at the regular Olympics ceremony through the different states. We’re trying to raise money to get a bid to help run the torch,” Anderson said.
Getting to see the peer coaches has been fun for Anderson.
“It is very rewarding to watch the kids have fun and interact and watch the peers interact and become friends with them. Whether you have a developmental disability, physical disability or not. You get along, you watch out for each other your buddies your high fiving each other that whole concept of it,” Anderson said.