STANDISH — After years of volunteering with Special Olympics, a Bonny Eagle senior plans to work with children with disabilities.

Sydney Gillingham of Standish has volunteered at the Special Olympics for six years, handing out medals, recording event times and working at the snack shack.

During her study hall, she also assists with adaptive gym classes for the school’s special education program.

“It’s a whole bunch of fun. I look forward to it every day. That’s really what sparked my interest in going into the special needs section of occupational therapy,” she said.

Gillingham will graduate June 7 at 6 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, along with 250 other Bonny Eagle students. She will attend the University of New England in the fall with plans to major in occupational therapy and minor in special education so she can one day work with disabled children.

Her volunteer work continues with the National Honor Society and Key Club, a school program that finds volunteer opportunities for students.

Gillingham said she volunteers whenever she has the chance “or whenever I’m given an opportunity. I definitely enjoy it.”

Bonny Eagle High School Principal Lori Napolitano said she is “impressed with (Gillingham’s) commitment to working with special needs students. She’s humble, yet a really natural leader in the building.”

She also helps out with the Unified Basketball team, recording the team’s statistics and, this year, announcing their games.

“It was awesome. I loved being able to watch and support but also contribute to the team,” she said.

In addition, Gillingham is a star athlete, having been a starting varsity soccer player for four years and a starting varsity softball player for three.

She began playing both sports when she was 4 years old and has played basketball as well. While her career as a shortstop and centerfielder will come to a close this year, she plans to continue playing soccer at UNE.

As the team’s goalie, she says, “if I wasn’t a goalie, I don’t think I would love it as much as I do, but since I did find that position, I love it. I love the adrenaline.”

Gillingham was a team captain for both soccer and softball her junior and senior years. She is also a member of the Seacoast United soccer club.

Her soccer skills have earned her the distinction of Southwestern Maine Activities Association Girls Soccer Scholar Athlete and led to her being named First Team All-State this year.

“She displays a lot of Bonny Eagle pride and spirit,” Napolitano added. “She organizes the fan section for our football and basketball games. She has a lot of school pride.”

In addition to her many activities, Gillingham finds time to work as a waitress on weekends and has made the honor roll throughout her years in high school.

“It’s been tough keeping up with school and sports, but it keeps me on my toes and helps me manage my time,” she said.

She said her parents have been immensely supportive of her endeavors throughout high school, as has the community as a whole.

“I love Bonny Eagle’s community. I think I really get to experience the community through the high school sports,” she said. “I see the support that all of the community provides and that we as athletes and teams provide to the community. I’m definitely going to miss that camaraderie.”

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at [email protected]

Years of volunteering with Special Olympics have inspired Bonny Eagle senior Sydney Gillingham to pursue a course of study to work with disabled children.


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