SPRINGFIELD TWP.  Students of Springfield Local Schools participated in the first Summit County Special Olympics Track and Field Day in May at Nordonia High School.

Springfield Director of Special Services Brad Beun said 50 students participated in both track and field events. Each student could participate in three events. The district's student participants were from the classrooms of Brett Zimmerman (Spring Hill), Stacie Pendergast (Spring Hill), Sheila Wright (Schrop), Mary Beth Mitchell (junior high) and Lisa Moretz (high school).

Each student attended the athletic event with a peer buddy to help them with their activity. The Springfield Senior Cheerleaders were also at the event helping and cheering the students on. Athletes participated in events such as the 10-, 25- and 50-meter runs, relays and distance softball throw. Other activities included face painting, a photo booth, sensory tables with bubbles and marbles, sand art, football toss and craft table.

Parents and classmates were encouraged to attend the Olympics to cheer for the student participants.

"This was a great opportunity for our students to participate in events they typically do not have the opportunity to do," said Moretz, Springfield High School's intervention specialist. "Students were excited and felt like part of an event. It was also nice seeing the smiles on parent’s faces watching their student be part of an event."

Student participants from the high school shared their thoughts:

"It was awesome," said Jenna Holmes.

"I liked running," added Nathan Woods.

"I liked all the activities they had set out for us to do," said Courtney Conley.

"We all look forward to next year's event," Moretz concluded.

Intervention Specialist Sheila Wright said one of the greatest things about her kids participation is that Special Olympics encourages each athlete to bring a buddy.

"We are very inclusive at Schrop, but it was heartwarming to the point of tears to see some of the most popular children in the school hanging out with my babies," said Wright, who worked with her students to write thank you notes to Nordonia thanking the district for the great day they had.

Spring Hill sent 11 athletes from its building and 15 buddies assisting those athletes.

Intervention Specialist Brett Zimmerman said the students participated in the softball throw, standing long jump, ramp roll and tee ball push. The track events included 10-, 25- and 50-meter dashes, as well as 25- and 50-meter wheelchair dashes. Four students competed in a 25-meter relay race as well.

"Our kiddos enjoyed the opportunity to show off their skills we had been practicing at school," Zimmerman said. "In addition to the events, there were sensory input stations and activities for all students to explore. All of the buddies want to sign up for next year’s Special Olympics. They were able to see our kids with special needs in a different environment and observe them participating in typical events."

Zimmerman said many of the student's parents came to the event and "were pleased that we were afforded the opportunity to lift up our kiddos."

Spring Hill student Aidan Liddle participated in the relay and said, "I liked the running."

His mom, Rora Liddle, added, "We found the event to be inspirational and inspiring."

Students and intervention specialist alike said the event was wonderful and Nordonia was a great host.

Zimmerman gave credit to the Nordonia staff and students for producing the event.

"Everyone was helpful, courteous and excited to be at the field," he said. "They greeted us upon arrival, were visible all day and assisted us with our departure. Our staff is excited to participate next year."

"Springfield Local Schools would like to thank Carrie Hutchison, director of pupil services at Nordonia Local Schools, for organizing the event," added Beun.