SOUTH HADLEY, MA – Steve and Patty Pittsley, of Ware, watched from the stands as their son Maxwell, 19, practiced throwing a ball and dribbling at the winter Special Olympics on Thursday in the gym at Smith Middle School in South Hadley.
“He loves basketball,” said Steve. “He’s been looking forward to this.”
Maxwell was among 80 developmentally disabled youth from Granby, Northampton, Ware and South Hadley schools taking part in the four-town Special Olympics this year.
Founder and director of the event is Michael Topor, an adaptive physical education teacher based at the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton. He organizes three Special Olympics programs a year for his towns, under the auspices of Special Olympics Massachusetts, West Branch.
“I work with some of the greatest kids in the world,” said Topor, who has been teaching intellectually disabled students for 28 years. His winter program features basketball and bowling. A fall program of soccer takes place in Granby, and a spring track-and-field program meets in Northampton.
Diane Rivard, of Ware, watched as granddaughter Brittany handled a basketball. “She’s got some moves!” said Rivard. Another grandmother, Janet O’Brien, of Holyoke, was cheering for Anna, 12, daughter of Stephen and Erin O?Brien, of South Hadley, who were also looking on. All the athletes would get gold medals in the end.