Village View Elementary was a sea of red, blue, green and yellow T-shirts Friday as the Huntington Beach school staged its 30th annual Special Olympics.
This year, Village View welcomed five other Ocean View School District campuses — Lake View, Westmont, Star View and Circle View elementary schools, as well as Spring View Middle School — for the biggest Special Olympics in its history.
Upbeat music blasted on speakers as nearly 150 children enrolled in special education programs circulated through relay races, bean bag and ring tosses, soccer and basketball games and water gun game stations. General education students participated as “peer buddies,” helping the student athletes at each station or cheering from the sidelines.
“The inclusivity is exceptional, not only with including all of the special ed students, but watching the general ed students interact with them and support them,” said district Supt. Carol Hansen. “We really are practicing being inclusive, and it’s very exciting.”
Principal Francesca Ligman said she has seen youngsters who participated in the event as special education students in previous years eventually become peer buddies. Every Village View student takes part, either as an athlete or helper.
At the end of the two-hour Special Olympics games, each athlete was awarded a medal before returning to school for the day.
“Special needs is something we want to embrace, celebrate and honor,” Ligman said.
Not only did schools from around the district join in the fun, but Hansen said their Parent Teacher Assn. groups also pitched in to purchase T-shirts for the children. Dozens of family members gathered around the stations to support the student athletes.
“The parents, friends, family — they all come out,” said Kristy Eaton, whose 8-year-old son, Cash, has participated in Special Olympics since he was in kindergarten. “Everybody is just so sweet and loving and accepting. … It makes the kid feel good.”
Cash’s grandma, uncle, aunt and cousins cheered and took photos of the second-grader as he took a break from bowling to rest in a chair.
Eaton said her son was non-verbal when he enrolled in Village View as a kindergartner. Now, thanks to the help of his teacher and the devotion of the administration, Cash is speaking, reading and writing.
“For our family, it’s night and day,” his mother said.