Schuylkill Valley School District’s Special Track and Field Invitational provided special needs youth with a sense of accomplishment. This event is designed so everyone wins.
About 160 special needs student-athletes from Antietam, Brandywine Heights, Conrad Weiser, Oley Valley and BCIU’s Pal Program competed in track and field events. All athletes received ribbons – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place ribbons were awarded at the end of each heat.
Held on May 7 at Schuylkill Valley High School, the opening ceremony commenced starting with an address from Schuylkill Valley Superintendent Dr. Cindy Mierzejewski.
“This is a great opportunity for all of our students to participate in where friends and family can cheer them on,” Mierzejewski said. “I really like that a number of schools participate. The collaboration is good for the teachers and the students.”
She also said Schuylkill Valley will continue hosting, “For however long.”
After the opening address, a 9th grade Schuylkill Valley student, Hoxquelin Gomez-Contreras Jr., read the athlete’s pledge before declaring the event officially in session. Starting with the torch runner, students ran a fake torch peer-to-peer around the track.
After this they proceeded to their first event which could have been any of the following; standing long jump, running long jump, shot put, or softball throw. As the day proceeded everyone participated in these events.
Also in attendance to show support and encouragement were more than 125 volunteers or buddies, 400 parents and community members and 2,000 teachers and students.
The show of support started even before the event. At Brandywine Heights School District, students sent the athletes off cheering them on with encouraging posters. The halls were as loud as the stands at the school’s homecoming game.
At the invitational, every athlete was accompanied by a “buddy” throughout the day. A buddy was a volunteer that was partnered with each athlete to cheer them on and form a bond.
One buddy from Schuylkill Valley High School, Aaron Geisinger, said, “The best part is seeing the smile on the kids’ faces. It’s their day to shine, it’s THEIR day. That’s the coolest part of it all.”
Another buddy, Paige Krajcic, a sophomore at Brandywine Heights High School said, “We get to see the kids challenge themselves and get a reward while spending time with their friends and being happy.”
Dana Carter, a special educator at Schuylkill Valley Middle School and the coordinator of the event, said, “The kids are able to smile, and are able to put their challenges on the side and enjoy being a regular kid for a day.”
Carter credited the students, teachers, and volunteers for putting the event on, as well as “numerous, numerous hours, late nights leading up to it. We have a team here so it’s very spread out; paraprofessionals, volunteers, and teachers.”