Kelley Handy took first place in the 15-yard freestyle at a Special Olympics regional swim meet Friday in Cape Elizabeth.

The 13-year-old from Raymond was one of dozens of competitors from 16 schools and programs that attended the event.

“Competing is fun,” said Handy, “and I like the feel of the water.”

Patrick Huber and Andrew Tanguay, also from Raymond, participated in the meet as well, and the Richards Pool filled with cheers and smiling faces.

Raymond coach John Keller said that recreation programs for special needs students provide a list of benefits to the participants.

“Competing, having fun, getting a ribbon, the social activity of taking a field trip, the exercise, swimming skills and there are other physical benefits – it increases your flexibility, circulation, overall good physical fitness activity.”

The Raymond swimmers, from the Jordan Small and Raymond Elementary schools, practice at St. Joseph’s College once a week.

“Special Olympics is not just the event itself; it’s the training,” Keller said. “That’s 95% of it…preparing for the games.”

Mark Capano, vice president of programming for Special Olympics Maine, had praise for the Cape Elizabeth residents who organized the meet.

“Sally Caras runs this meet and she’s excellent,” said Capano. “Karen Johnson and Kim Hanlon run a terrific program, and they have the total support of the Cape school system.”

Ali Howe, one of the Cape students volunteering at the meet, said that she likes the feeling that she’s “a part of something” when she helps out.

“It gives the kids and adults a chance to do something that’s important to them,” Howe said, “and to have a place that they can achieve.”

Capano noted that the students helping out benefit greatly from the experience, even if they don’t immediately realize it.

“They’re getting life skills they’ve never even dreamed about.”

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