Fourth annual Special Night-Building Community unifies three high schools in support of some exceptional students

Published 8:05 am Thursday, March 16, 2023

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Wednesday night was about more than just a game. It was a chance to unify the community in one voice to uplift members of our community who so rarely get the spotlight. The fourth annual Special Night-Building Community event was the biggest one yet as, for the first time, members of all three high schools in the Troup County School System — Callaway, LaGrange, and Troup — took part in the annual event. 

“It is amazing,” said Mitzi Norton, the creator and manager of Special Night. “Seeing all the (exceptional education students) faces and all the faces of the students who are embracing one another is what makes tonight so special.”

One by one, the players, cheerleaders, band members were introduced to thunderous applause and a hero’s welcome as they took their spots on the court, ready for the ensuing game.

What makes the event so special is how community driven it is. Administrators, teachers, coaches, athletes, students, family and fans from all three schools converged to lift up so many different members of the community. 

Halftime brought its own heartwarming moments with future stars of Special Night getting a chance to show their skills off on a mini hoop. The West Georgia Wolverines — the local adapted sports team that plays basketball, football and handball — also got a few minutes to show off their skills on wheels. The Wolverines are one of the top teams in handball and basketball in the state and got a chance to shine in front of a large crowd.

The $500 raffle won by Nancy Durand provided a moment that sparked cheers from the crowd as she immediately gave the money back to the three exceptional education programs. 

It is a night that is just as special for newcomers as it is for those that have been there every step of the way.

“Seeing this entire community coming together for the special community is amazing and I’ve truly never experienced anything like this,” said Nick Griffin, an assistant coach for the first time at Special Night and member of the coaching staff for the Wolverines. “I wish this was every week thing. These kids deserve it.”  

From year one to where it is now is a sharp change. The event has grown tremendously in support and Norton would never have believed this was possible when she first started it.

It truly is a community coming together to make this happen with a ton of intricate parts falling into place because of the work of so many people, but it also takes a herculean effort from Norton to put this together and grow it every year even if she is quick to heap praise on others who contribute to the night’s grand success. 

One group of people she was quick to praise was the student bodies from all three schools who came together to give the players an atmosphere they could scarcely dream of. For the players on the court that get to help facilitate the game, it is a moment like no other. 

“I’m so glad we could be a part of something as special as tonight is,” said Devin Dowell, a LaGrange basketball player. “I love all of them to death.”

“Tonight is very special,” LaGrange high senior J’Arthur Dunn said. “They don’t get a chance like this every day , so getting out here and letting them do what they do is very special.”

Special Night-Building Community is not going away anytime soon. Norton plans to continue to expand it to be as inclusive as she possibly can.

“We want to continue to build an inclusive community,: Norton said. “It is about changing the way people see, value, respect and include other people.”