The T-shirts worn by students, staff and volunteers encouraged everyone to be a fan of “Respect. Friendship. Acceptance. Unity. Inclusion.”
Respect, friendship, acceptance, unity and inclusion were in abundance at the Little Feet Meet hosted by Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) in partnership with Special Olympics Virginia April 18. It was the first-ever Little Feet Meet for VBCPS and based on the smiling faces of more than 320 elementary school participants, it likely won’t be the last.
“Athletes, we have come here in celebration of you!” announced Nandi Perry, Landstown High School’s student emcee for the meet’s opening ceremony. “It is in your determination and in your courage that you inspire within all of us the spirit we long to find everyday of our lives. In giving your all, you help us each understand that there’s no real disability, only many different types of abilities; no real weakness, only many different forms of strength; no real wealth, only the richness of unlocking the gifts of others and of ourselves.”
Little Feet Meets, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Special Olympics Project UNIFY, provide an opportunity for young students with developmental disabilities to engage in track and field events with assistance from a general education peer. The goal of Project UNIFY is to further promote inclusion and acceptance in school communities while encouraging physical fitness.
In the weeks leading up to the meet, the school division’s adaptive physical education teachers facilitated activities for student athletes and their training peers to prepare for the meet’s various developmentally-appropriate races and throwing and jumping events. The weeks of preparation paid off as student athletes successfully completed 25- and 50-meter races, ball tosses and long jumps to the cheers of classmates, teachers and relatives.
When peer buddies weren’t cheering on athletes from the sidelines, they were giving hugs, sharing high fives and holding hands to lend support or encouragement.
Respect. Friendship. Acceptance. Unity. Inclusion.
Also cheering on the elementary school participants were more than 150 students from Landstown High School who served as greeters, event facilitators and student attendants. They also spent weeks preparing and training for their supportive roles at the Little Feet Meet.
“The goal of this unity. We want to promote inclusion. We want to promote awareness of students with disabilities and also just to give the kids an opportunity to be center stage,” said Rob Mages, VBCPS adaptive PE teacher. “This lets them be the star of the show.”
To view more photos of the stars of the Little Feet Meet, visit the VBSchools Facebook page and view the event video below.