Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Handicaps Not an Issue Disabled Students Compete in Games

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Handicaps Not an Issue Disabled Students Compete in Games

Article excerpt

The cheerleaders were there as the athletes stepped off their

buses at Landmark Middle School's track, eager to compete

Friday.

"Let's go, Palm Avenue, let's go," sang the 15 Landmark Seahawk

cheerleaders. "We're here, to welcome you!"

The John Hoden Memorial Games for Students with Physical

Disabilities were about to begin, the only time each year these

handicapped students can compete for the glory of their school

in a track and field meet.

Because of that, games coordinator Carol Wright had a gentle

reminder for the 100 volunteers as they prepared to guide the

athletes through such events as the wheelchair slalom, the

softball throw and 50-meter walk.

"Even when you aren't doing anything, cheer on and encourage

all the kids who are participating," she said through a

bullhorn. "Act as a cheerleader for everybody."

For the 11th consecutive year, handicapped students from

Landmark and Stilwell middle schools, Sandalwood and Ed White

high schools and Palm Avenue Exceptional Student Center were

taking part in the county-sanctioned track and field day. For

four hours, 150 Duval County special education students between

ages 12 and 20 took part in 17 events with one wish on their

minds.

"I want to help my classmates at my school," said 400-meter

wheelchair competition winner and Sandalwood student Brian

Lawson, 15. "It makes me happy doing this, bringing a ribbon

home."

The annual athletic event was started in 1987 by Wright, head

of Duval County's exceptional education program. Held at

Stilwell for the first 10 years, it was moved to the East

Arlington school this year to make it easier for students to

attend.

"It's not a play day and it's not Special Olympics. It is an

opportunity for these students to represent their schools as a

team," Wright said. "Many of them end up graduating without ever

having a chance to say I was a Landmark Seahawk or whatever.

This gives them a chance to come out and win a trophy."

The games were named for a Sandalwood High School student who

died in the summer of 1987, just as Wright and others were

planning the first games at Stilwell. …

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