HYANNIS, MA – For the Bent family, athletics has been a way of life.
And for the youngest of the Centerville Bent Clan – 9-year-old Sarah – that sense and joy and drive to compete has been no different, even though the energetic little grade-schooler was born with Down’s Syndrome.
Once featured as the billboard icon of the Special Olympics of Massachusetts, Sarah has been the de facto captain of “Sarah’s Team,” a group of about 165 Bent family friends who each year participate in The Annual Santa’s Jolly Jaunt 5K (1K walk) in Hyannis. The Bents first participated in the Jaunt in 2005 to help raise money for the Special Olympics, but in 2006 “Sarah’s Team” was formed and since then has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the organization.
Nine Years for Sarah
This year’s Jolly Jaunt will be held Sunday, December 7 at 11:00 am (Jr. Jaunt for kids will start at 10:30 am) and is being co-sponsored by the Barnstable Police Department. It is being held at The Resort & Conference Center on Scudder Road in Hyannis adjacent to the West End Rotary.
Proceeds will benefit Barnstable Public School programs affiliated with the Special Olympics. “Sarah’s Team” is one of 21 local teams participating in the event, but almost overwhelmingly it has grown to become the marquee late autumn charity race across the state. Sponsored statewide by the New Balance Foundation and dubbed the Special Olympics Jolly Jaunt 5K road race series, races will be held Saturday, December 6 as well as in Hyannis on December 7, in Amherst, Boston, Danvers and Taunton. Each participant is given a “Santa Suit” to run in. The US Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program is also a beneficiary of the proceeds raised.
“We started participating in this event in honor of Sarah the year she was born,” her mother Kathy Bent said. “We never realized how much The Special Olympics does for all people with disabilities (not just children) and how important it is for each Special Olympian who participates. Special Olympics athletes never pay a cent to participate in any of the 27 different sports offered, so we are raising critical dollars to fund the year-round sports training and athletic competitions for athletes in Massachusetts with intellectual disabilities.”
A gymnast, basketball player, soccer player and track competitor since she could walk, Sarah has not once allowed the challenge of Down’s Syndrome affect her inherited Bent genetic trait to have fun participating in sports. Her father, George Bent Sr., has been a top-ranked triathlete and was the perennial most valuable player of the Cape Cod Amateur Men’s Basketball League as well as a collegiate basketball player at Westfield State and high school baseball and basketball star at Bridgewater-Raynham High School. He’s also the former Barnstable High School girls’ varsity head basketball coach. Her aforementioned mom, Kathy, was a collegiate swim coach. Her oldest brother, George Jr., is a junior at UMass-Dartmouth and one of the school’s top baseball pitchers, while her older sister Molly is a highly-touted basketball and soccer star at Tabor Academy and is the youngest basketball player in the history of Barnstable High School to reach the 1,000 points milestone. Her closest sibling in age, John, plays just about everything.
It can’t be avoided: it’s in the Bent-family blood.
“It is more than just a game,” Kathy Bent added. “With the Healthy Athletes® program Special Olympics is working hard to improve the overall health and fitness of participants so that they can lead long, healthy, and vibrant lives.”
Sean Walsh/CCB Sports Editor