HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Special Olympics is an event that allows participants from all over the state to celebrate and support one another. But, for the squad from Pahoa High School, the worry and the loss they've suffered as a result of the volcanic activity on Big Island has made being able to participate this weekend mean that much more.
"I appreciate the girls who are doing their best knowing that one of the girls lost their homes," said Pahoa head coach, Frank Degele with tears in his eyes. "Two of the girls got displaced from their homes. And even though that their hearts has been at home, they fulfilled their dream to come to the Special Olympics and do their best."
Degele said that one of his team members learned that her family's home had been destroyed by lava just before the games began. That athlete, along with two of her teammates from Kalapana, have all been recently displaced. While this weekend's Special Olympics don't change that harsh reality, Degele says it has given this team a reason to smile during an incredibly difficult time.
"Well, when we go back home we'll go back to the reality with what's going on," said Degele. "But, I know that these Special Olympics will be in their heart forever. And I already asked them who wants to go back next year and they all said, 'we want to come back coach'. And I said, 'yea I want to come back also.'"
Pahoa's unified softball team made its special Olympics debut this year. They also had athletes participate in track and field events.