Tournament of Champions celebrates 30th year: 'I started something and it's still going'

The theme to “Chariots of Fire” played throughout the Gill Center at McDaniel as students from more than 20 schools and homeschool groups paraded in with their McDaniel buddies. The students had neon green T-shirts from the event, which clashed cheerfully with the gold and emerald of their McDaniel companions.

Miles Taylor, who participated in Tournament of Champions when he was younger and has recently gone viral for his weightlifting skills, headed up the parade. An honor guard representing the combined law enforcement agencies in Carroll County followed the students and buddies.


Jamie Costello, WMAR-TV anchor, emceed the opening ceremony. “Just have fun today. Enjoy the moment,” he told the athletes.

The Tournament of Champions is open to students with orthopedic, visual and behavioral needs who attend public, private or home schools who do not qualify for Special Olympics.


During the opening ceremony, Costello recognized Jim Bullock, who founded the program 30 years ago when one of his adaptive physical education students did not qualify for Special Olympics. The first year included 17 students. This year, the program drew a record number with more than 180.

Bullock said he never imagined how the event would grow and persist over the years. During the opening ceremony, “I had tears in my eyes, because I started something and it’s still going,” he said.

More than 100 students with special needs participated alongside McDaniel student-athletes in a variety of athletic activities during the 29th annual Tournament of Champions Friday morning.

“To see these kids — I really like their enthusiasm for everything they get to do,” he said.

Hampstead Elementary School second-grader Noah Kupisch was excited about the bowling activity. He and a friend in his class cheered for each other as they bowled and Noah high-fived his mom and his McDaniel buddy Owen Reese after bowling a perfect strike.


“We love coming here. It’s always a lot of fun,” said Noah’s mom, Alexis Kupisch.

Other activities during the day included parachutes, giant tic-tac-toe, basketball, mini -golf and many more. The events can be modified to meet the needs of the participants.

North Carroll Middle School student Ty Little brought his light up flashing sneakers for the day.

“They’re disco,” he said.

It was his third year participating int he tournament. He didn’t really have a favorite event, but he likes basketball, he said.

McDaniel junior Ben Stapleton was one of the student interns who helped organize the event. Stapleton helped with a similar event at his high school.

“This is right up my alley and something I have passion for,” he said.

More than 100 special needs students participated in the 29th annual Tournament of Champions.

Part of his duties included helping to recruit volunteers. He sought out his football teammates and convinced a number of them to be buddies for the day. Hanging out with the students is rewarding, he said.

“Giving them high-fives and seeing them smile and be excited, for me that’s what counts. It doesn’t matter how stressful the day is,” he said.

Manchester Elementary School student Evan Detzel was at the tournament for the first time, and said he was having a fun time. The parachute was his favorite activity, he said as he waiting in line for a carnival-style “knock ‘em’over” game with stacked cups.

Freshmen Deantae Myers and Sam Welcher were his buddies for the day.

“I love working with kids,” Myers said. “It’s like my second job at home in Florida.”

The Tournament of Champions is organized by students in McDaniel College’s adapted physical education class in conjunction with Carroll County Public Schools.

Student intern Olivia Maenner, who started with the event as a freshman and is now a senior, said it’s easy to find volunteers because it’s so much fun.

“The McDaniel students enjoy it as much as the [participating] students,” she said, noting that one of her favorite parts is seeing the same kids return year after year.

To close out the day, the law enforcement supporters joined the students for an award ceremony during which the students were awarded a medal and certificate.

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