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Sharpsville 5K supports special-needs students

The Herald - 4/24/2019

April 24-- Apr. 24--SHARPSVILLE -- Last year, the Sharpsville 5K for Autism Awareness and Education event had a superheroes theme.

Sharpsville senior Alexis Garcia, 18, said she remembers how participants turned up for the event dressed in an array of colorful capes and costume.

"We had people dressing up as Spider-Man and Batman and Wonder Woman, so it was really amazing," Garcia said.

This year's 5K, Saturday at the school campus, has a Dr. Seuss theme, so participants should expect to see cats in hats and Things, both 1 and 2.

The fourth-annual event was created by Sharpsville High School's LEAD team -- made up of students who develop ideas or projects to improve their schools and community -- to help support their peers with special needs.

Though all of the LEAD students will assist with the 5-kilometer run, the event all started as an idea with MacKenzie Springer, 18, now a senior.

"I wanted to come up with an idea that would help kids in the school and the community, and both of my parents are schoolteachers involved with special education," she said.

Over the past three years, the 5K has raised over $16,000, with the proceeds being divided up between Autism Speaks and supporting the Sharpsville Area School District's special education programs. The students expect to hit the $20,000 mark following this year's event.

This year, a portion of the proceeds will also be provided to Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV in support of its special education programs, said Timothy Dadich, the district's director of student services.

"I couldn't be more proud of these kids," Dadich said of the students. "They're completely altruistic."

Though the goal of the 5k has always remained the same, a different theme is chosen every year.

This year's theme is Dr. Seuss, with T-shirts featuring the titular hat from "The Cat in the Hat" atop a blue puzzle piece with the quote "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" The back of the T-shirts feature a quote from another Dr. Seuss story, "Kid, you'll move mountains."

Sharpsville Area School District has two programs for special needs students, one class at the elementary school and another in the shared middle and high school building.

The elementary school program was started five years ago and the middle-high school class started three years ago, as students aged out of the elementary school, said Tim Findley, the teacher who oversees the special education program.

"We have students with special needs from a few different schools throughout Mercer County that come to the school district," Findley said.

Aside from the 5K, students from the LEAD team will also organize a series of activities for the Special Games field day events later in May. The day begins with special education students from schools throughout Mercer County enjoying activities including swimming and bowling before a series of outdoor activities at the Sharpsville track.

"To see the kids be able to parade and participate and be cheered on -- it's really beautiful," Findley said.

Participants can register for the 5K at the Sharpsville Area School District's website,, under "News," or call Dadich at 724-992-3242 ext. 4110. Supporters can order shirts without participating in the 5K. Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Sharpsville Area school campus and the run itself will start at 9 a.m. Saturday.

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