Government

Little Falls Mayor and Council Honors Special Olympian

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Pictured is Mayor James Damiano during a proclamation honoring local resident Jaime Janssen who won three gold medals at this year's NJ Special Olympics. Also pictured is Jaime's mother, Janice. Credits: Tina Pappas
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LITTLE FALLS, NJ - A special recognition was presented at the Little Falls Council Meeting on June 26.

Little Falls Mayor James Damiano gave a proclamation to local resident Jaime Janssen, for recently winning three gold medals. Jaime, 12,  a middle schooler with autism, who attends Little Falls School No. 1, was honored at the start of the meeting.

Damiano prioritized honoring Janseen prior to his mayor's report.

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"Before I give my half year statement and remarks, we have something far more important we are going to be doing today and that is recognizing this young gentleman who won himself three gold medals at the Special Olympics this month," said Damiano. 

Jaime competed in the 4X4 Unified Relay, the 100 Yard Dash, and the Javelin Throw. Damiano presented a proclamation to Jaime for his accomplishment.

According to his step-father Michael Gambatese, Jaime started competing when one of his teachers from the middle school gave the suggestion to the family.

"His teacher mentioned to us that there's a county special needs team called 'The Thunderbirds' based out of Clifton," he said. "You have to reside in any Passaic County town to qualify to join.  Their team practices are conducted at Passaic Valley High School (PVHS). After the practices they then go as a team to Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) in Wayne where they are joined with other teams from varying towns in Passaic County. They are then selected to go the state games held at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) where they compete there for an entire weekend."

He added the trip was a wonderful experience, not just for Jaime, but for the entire family.

"It's amazing what they do for these kids," he explained. "The coaches and the players stay on campus and their families can stay nearby  My wife and I, happen to be coaches. My other stepson Joe, who is 14 and just graduated eighth grade, is a junior coach."  

The state Special Olympics was held the weekend of June 9 through 11, he added. The opening ceremonies were held on June 9, and the games took place on June 10 and 11, he added..

"This is the second year he has competed. We were extremely excited last year when he competed and won a few silvers," he commented. "This year, he won three gold medals out of over 3,000 athletes. From what I'm being told, I think he was one of only ten competitors who received all gold medals during the games."

Jaime now qualifies to represent New Jersey's national team at the Special Olympics games being held in Seattle, Wash.

"He would be representing the state, along with others from their own state teams nationwide," he noted. "Those who won gold medals during the state games are invited to try-out against each other and go on to the national games, so he'll be back down at TCNJ next month in the hopes of being picked to represent Team New Jersey. We're just all blown away by what he's accomplished. He loves his town and considers himself a 'junior hornet.' He wore his junior hornet bracelet with pride when he competed earlier this month."

Damiano read the proclamation in his honor and presented him with an honorary certificate.

"Whereas, the Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the spirit through transforming power in the joy of sports, everyday around the world," he said. "The mayor and council of the Township of Little Falls takes great pride in the accomplishments of Special Olympics athletes. We would like to recognize the achievements of Jaime Janssen who competed in the state's Special Olympics.

"We recognize and honor the accomplishments of Jaime and wish him success in all his future endeavors."

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