A Day for Champions: Field Day held for exceptional individuals

Published 10:30 pm Thursday, May 19, 2022

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It was a day of triumph for the over 200 participants in the first-ever Day of Champions field day, an event that allowed those with disabilities from area schools to participate in a variety of activities empathetic to their sensory needs and abilities.

The event, held at the George Harris Baseball Complex, is similar to one the Troup County Recreation Department has hosted in the past. 

Prior to the pandemic, the Troup County Recreation Department hosted an annual local Special Olympics for exceptional students in the community. The department was unable to host the event this year and chose instead to host its own field day for children in the community with special needs.

“Every child should be able to celebrate and have fun, and we wanted to make sure all the events were accessible to the students,” explained Mitzi Norton, a special education teacher at LaGrange High School who, along with fellow educators Craig Mobley and Felicia Moneypenny, developed the event.

In the past, the three have been responsible for events like Special Night, a prom-style event for those with mental and physical disabilities.

The event featured exceptional students of various age levels, who had their choices of traditional games like football, basketball or racing, as well as more sensory-specific games like ring-toss, cornhole and parachute. Within on-site, air-conditioned tents, participants additionally had access to other activities meant to help them relax.

“We wanted to make sure [activities] were age-appropriate for elementary school students and older students,” Moneypenny said.

Mobley, a softball coach at LaGrange High School, developed the athletic activities of individuals, taking into account how some students are wheel-chair bound.

For participating schools like Ethel Kight Elementary School, the event gave its students a chance to mingle with other children.

“It’s a great way for the students to be stimulated and enjoy being out of the classroom,” said Angel Cameron, the family liaison at Ethel Kight.

Ethel Kight had two combined classes of 15 children.

Sarah Harperzeh, a special education teacher at Ethel Kight Elementary School, said the event helped her students socialize after being cooped up throughout the pandemic.

“We were still able to adapt […] it was all well-organized, so they could run around on the playground [at the school], but this is great for them to get out and socialize with their peers,” Harperzeh said. “The other kids are really receptive of our children and they include them, but there’s a lot of help here so the kids can take part in all the activities and be successful.”

Cheering on participants were teachers, parapros and parents. Area organizations like LaGrange High School’s Circle of Friends and students from Callaway High and Troup High volunteered as coaches and timekeepers for certain activities.

It was the second time Lilly Rollings, a member of Circle of Friends, had volunteered with exceptional individuals, having volunteered at Exceptional Night Out earlier in May.

“I like seeing the smiles on all their faces,” she said. “I love it.”

Moneypenny said it was unclear if the event will continue next year, however, she, Mobley and Moneypenny are always brainstorming future projects.

“We’re an ambitious team, and we’re always looking to provide opportunities not only LaGrange High students, but all students of the community,” Moneypenny said.

LaGrange Toyota, Jackson Services and Restore Pressure Washing & Soft Washing acted as the event’s sponsors and donated items like water bottles and food.