On Friday, April 11, 2014, special needs students from schools across Bakersfield City School District (BCSD) gathered at Rafer Johnson School to compete in the 41st Annual Rafer Johnson Track Meet. This event presents an opportunity for handicapped students to participate in Track and Field events such as sprint races, long jump, javelin and disc throwing.
Mr. Rafer Johnson opened the event with inspirational words for the participants and their families then greeted the students as they marched in the opening parade. BCSD Board members Lillian Tafoya and Andrae Gonzales were joined by Superintendent, Dr. Rob Arias and other District staff in supporting all the athletes participating in the events of the day.
Gary Hayden, event organizer and Special Education Coordinator said, “This is one of the most fulfilling things I do all year. To see these students who struggle every day, smiling ear to ear is a reward that is hard to describe. Everyone that spends time here is rewarded by what they see.” He continued, “We are also fortunate to have the dedicated support of someone like Mr. Johnson, his presence here, every year, helps make it a very special day.”
In 41 years, the two-time Olympic medalist has never missed one of these track meets. Traveling from his home in Southern California to attend and preside over the day’s events is something he looks forward to every spring. Mr. Johnson brought home Olympic gold in the Decathlon at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, and a Silver medal at the 1956 games in Melbourne, Australia. He is president of California Special Olympics, and Ambassador to the Special Olympics International Headquarters.