After learning that the Lorain County Special Olympics Track and Field Event was cancelled again this year due to COVID-19, Megan Karhusz, Lorain County JVS Job Training Program instructor and Angela Banks, Lorain County JVS intervention specialist, knew they had to create an event that would make their students feel as celebrated and exceptional as they do at the Special Olympics each year.
“Many of the students have been participating in the Special Olympics spring event for the entirety of their school career,” shared Karhusz. “And with the students that are graduating this year, we knew how upset they would be to miss out on it for the last time.”
With the help of Jason Christner, Lorain County JVS Sports, Health and Fitness Technology instructor and Lauren Molnar, Lorain County JVS Teacher Education Exploration instructor, the ‘Festival of Friends’ was created. “The more we talked the more we realized how awesome it would be to bring different programs together in a very unique way,” Karhusz said.
Sports, Health and Fitness Technology students created four stations that student athletes from the Job Training Program and the Hospitality Services program participated in throughout the day.?These stations were a combination of traditional athletic events such as broad jump, sled pull, and agility courses, and some creative teamwork activities. Sports, Health and Fitness Technology students managed each station, explaining the rules and demonstrating activities.
Teacher Education Exploration students were paired up with the athletes and helped them navigate their schedule of events for the day.? They cheered the athletes on as they completed events and acted as a coach to help them with difficult tasks.
“The athletes were broken up into very small groups to rotate between the stations and to account for social distancing,” explained Karhusz.?“Our hope was for these students to learn something new, step a little bit outside of their comfort zone, and most importantly, have some fun! It’s been such a weird and crazy school year, we wanted to end it on a high note with this fun event for them.”
The collaboration didn’t stop there. Lorain County JVS ninth and tenth graders printed the t-shirts that all students and staff wore and made the plaques for each of the athletes.
The event concluded with an ice cream social where athletes received their plaques and the Sports, Health and Fitness Technology and Teacher Education Exploration students received volunteer certificates.?
The Lorain County JVS PTA supplied a grant that paid for the shirts, ice cream, and necessary supplies for the event.?
Karhusz said the event was magical.? “The excitement leading up to the event in the afternoon was palpable. Witnessing the courage, passion, respect, and fun that took place was an experience I will never forget,” Karhusz shared with a smile. “I’m so very proud of all of the students for their participation and the Lorain County JVS staff for thinking outside the box to gift this experience to our students.”