Lighting the torch
Medway Middle School hosts Special Olympics soccer event
The MetroWest Daily News - 3/26/2018
MEDWAY -- A procession of special needs children were welcomed to Medway Middle School Friday morning in grand style - escorted by a police and fire department motorcade and passing a gauntlet of applauding students.
The children - from the towns of Medway, Medfield, Holliston, Ashland and Millis - were taking part in a soccer event, held in conjunction with the Special Olympics of Massachusetts. The towns take turns hosting the yearly event, which was conceived as a way to build friendships between students.
"It's a group of pretty small towns," said Kathleen Bernklow, the Medway director of student services. "We all got together six years ago and asked if we could do something to bring the towns together."
Because the towns are small, Bernklow said, their special education students don't often see many other children facing the same struggles as they do. By broadening the event to include the five towns, the schools afford them that opportunity.
Students rotated between a variety of stations, each teaching a component of the sport. One station had students shooting goals past Medway High School varsity goalies, while another had them learning to dribble the ball. Other skills, like passing and throw-ins, were also on display.
"(Physical therapists) take the components of the sport and break them down to make them accessible," Bernklow said.
Jess Bartha, a Medway physical therapist who helped organize the event, said the stations used equipment to adapt to different needs - like taped-down pool noodles to establish dribbling lanes.
Each town, said Bernklow, has its own specialty. While Medway teaches the students soccer, Holliston focuses on track, Ashland provides football instruction and Medfield's sport is basketball.
Medway Middle School Principal Cari Perchase said it was an honor to host the event.
"I think it's a fantastic opportunity for our students," she said. "It's a magical day - you can see the joy on students' faces."
Supporting the day was a group of student volunteers, most of whom were with the high school's Best Buddies program. Organizers said the day would not be possible without volunteer help from teachers and donations from local businesses and the community.
Medway resident Emily Fahey - whose seven-year-old son, Aiden, was participating in the day's activities - said Friday's festivities had been highly anticipated in her household.
"I'm not sure Aiden slept last night," she said, adding that she felt this was an ideal way to teach sports skills. "He's participated in sports, but this is more specialized. This just fun - there's not the competitiveness you'd see elsewhere."
Student Chris Tocci said he had been looking forward to taking part in the event. Each activity seemed to require its own set of skills. He said he definitely wanted to take part in the shootout drill.
Mike Gleason can be reached at 508-634-7546 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For news throughout the day, follow him on Twitter @MGleason_MDN.