Special night for special Grangers

Published 7:30 pm Wednesday, January 15, 2020

It’s game night at LaGrange High, with a twist.

As has been the case on so many Friday nights over the years, the wooden bleachers in LaGrange High’s old gym will be full, with hundreds of well-wishers eager to support the home team.

In this case, though, it won’t be the LaGrange High basketball teams that folks are cheering for.

Instead, the stars of the night will be special-needs students from the local high schools.

It’s the third edition of the Special Night for Special Grangers, and this will be the first time students from a school other than LaGrange will be involved.

When the game tips off at 7 p.m. on Friday, special-needs students from LaGrange, Callaway and Troup will get an opportunity to show their skills on the basketball court.

Mitzi Norton, the organizer of the event, is a part of the exceptional-education team at LaGrange High, and she said “I get to come in every day and spend my day with these kids, and they truly teach me. They do. I learn from them. It’s just like the night of the event, you leave feeling so uplifted, and that’s how it is every day here. They really are just an amazing group.”

Norton is gratified to see the way the entire school has embraced the event.

“I wish I could walk you through and you could see all of the things that the students do,” Norton said. “In graphic designs, they are non-stop creating different visuals, and banners. We have kids doing videos and creating footage. We have the basketball team, the cheerleaders, the baseball team. Just about all of the different athletic teams they’re supporting this one way or another.”

A handful of other school organizations are supporting the event as well, and there’s also a student-let T-shirt contest, and the winning design will be unveiled on Friday.

Alton White, LaGrange High’s principal, isn’t surprised to see the enthusiastic support offered by the students.

“It makes you proud, and it kind of reaffirms what you think about our kids,” White said at last year’s event. 

“They do a great job of supporting each other in everything. You go to the choral concert, it’ll be full. The band concert, and the ballgames, the same thing. They want to support these students as much as they do everybody else. It really speaks volumes.”

Before the game, the players and the cheerleaders will be introduced, and then it’ll be time to play basketball.

During the game, members of LaGrange High’s basketball teams will be on the court, encouraging their classmates, and in some cases physically assisting them.

At last year’s game, then senior Jordan Ogletree held one of the players by the hand and helped him get up and down the court.

“What touches my heart is when you see some of these kids, like Jordan, embrace it,” Norton said. “It’s changing perspectives. It’s opening up doors.”

Norton said that everyone who has been approached about helping out has done so with a smile.

“There’s just so much that goes into it,” Norton said. 

“It takes a village, and we’ve got one, and they love doing it.”