April 21, 2016 – The Bakersfield City School District (BCSD) hosted the 43rd annual Rafer Johnson Day Track Meet on April 15th at Rafer Johnson School. The event is held each spring for approximately 300 Pre-K to 8th grade students with special needs from schools across the District.
“We ran and played Frisbees, and we won, so we got hula hoops, bubbles, and everything was great,” said College Heights Elementary School third grade student Andres Castellano.
The day began with the Parade of Athletes, followed by the Special Olympics which included events such as running, javelin throwing, Frisbee, and jumping. All students participated in each event and received an award ribbon. A few students from Rafer Johnson School also had the opportunity to attend the event.
“Today is a great day to play with these kids and help them out for a day,” said Rafer Johnson student Joshua Maldonado. “I was really happy to meet Rafer Johnson because he is an Olympic athlete and because our school is named after him.”
Rafer Johnson is known for his achievements in the Olympics, and his involvement in the Special Olympics. In 1956, he won a silver medal in the Olympic Decathlon. In 1960, he led the American team into the stadium in Rome for the opening ceremonies and then went on to win the gold medal in the Decathlon. In 1970, Johnson helped to establish the National Special Olympics. In 2004, he carried the flame and lit the cauldron at Dodger Stadium during the Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay. Today, Johnson is still involved with the Special Olympics as a board member and ambassador. He was inducted into the BCSD Hall of Fame in 2011 and attends the BCSD Rafer Johnson Day event every year.
“This event is important because it brings attention to these students,” said Johnson. “I think it’s important to have this event for the special needs students so that no kid is left out and every kid has the opportunity to have a place to go, friends to meet, and friends to play with.”
Johnson plans to return to the event again next year.