Countywide : Students Put Disabilities on Sidelines

Seated in his wheelchair, Isaac (Red Hot) Lopez, 14, contemplated the upcoming race for which he had trained all week by lifting weights. "I'm looking forward to winning," he said. "I would like to win the relay."

But more importantly, Lopez added: "I'm looking forward to seeing how my team works together, how we can handle pressure and cooperate as a team. I told my team it's OK to make mistakes, because the team is better when we learn from our mistakes."

Lopez was one of about 300 physically disabled children who competed in Olympics-style games at Carl Harvey Orthopedically Handicapped School in Santa Ana on Friday. During the two-hour event, disabled students from Harvey, as well as Kenneth E. Mitchell School for the developmentally disabled and Taft Hearing Impaired School, competed in relay races, flying disk tosses, obstacle courses and bean-bag throws.

Karen Daniels, president of the Parent-Staff Organization, said that the sporting events were especially important for special-education students because "it gives them a chance to succeed. They have all the same desires and needs as kids without disabilities, so they have the same competitiveness that other kids have."

Wearing an Olympic pin on his red shirt, her 11-year-old son, Ben, waited eagerly for his race, a relay which he would anchor for his team. In sign language, he said that he likes events like this because he loves to run and be with all his friends. Of course, he didn't mind the blue ribbon he received after he crossed the finish line first in the relay, either.

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