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Little Feet Meet provides inclusion

Suffolk News-Herald - 3/29/2018

King's Fork High School football field was filled with students from 10 elementary schools in Suffolk for the fourth annual Special Olympic Virginia's Little Feet Meet.

The Little Feet Meet's purpose is to bring children with and without disabilities together in competition.

"It's amazing to see these kids working together and collaborating," said Suffolk Public Schools' Director of Special Education Diane Glover.

This is the first year in three years that the event wasn't rained out, and all of those in attendance were happy to enjoy the warm weather with the kids.

"The fact it is not raining and the kids are having a good time makes this perfect," Glover said.

There is more to the Little Feet Meet than what spectators see on the day of the event. Eight weeks prior to the event, disabled and non-disabled children are paired up with their buddies to prepare.

"They have been training for a while. Special Olympics Virginia provided them with equipment at school," said Debbie Apperson. "Little Feet Meet is the culminating event."

Over the course of eight weeks, the children have the opportunity to make friendships with each other. This provides an inclusive environment other than an inclusive classroom.

"This gives them an opportunity for friendship," Apperson said. "In an inclusion classroom, you don't have the chance to socialize. This gives them a place to interact so that this behavior can continue."

King's Fork students had the chance to join in the merriment and help with the activities. Multiple students helped facilitate the competitions, and the school invited the special education high school students to act as ambassadors for the younger students.

Since King's Fork hosts the event, one of the senior students acts as the chairperson for the event. Madison Froemel was the chairperson this year, and she was happy to not have the event rained out.

"I participated with Little Feet Meet when I was in elementary school, and I was partnered with an autistic kid. I absolutely loved them," Froemel said. "From then, I knew I wanted to continue to participate."

Part of the mission of Special Olympics Virginia is to provide inclusion and friendships, and it is something the organization has invested in, according to Apperson.

"We do this when they are in elementary school so that by the time people are adults, they can be appreciative of those with disabilities," Apperson said.

The excitement for the event was palpable with every Suffolk Public Schools staff member.

"I am overwhelmed with joy," Glover said. "I want them to go home knowing that regardless of people's disabilities, people are similar. It's amazing to see them working together."

 
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