Special education pupils shine at Howell Mania
Under a clear blue sky on the open fields of Shark River Park in Wall Township, a group of about 225 pupils from the Howell K-8 School District displayed their athleticism in the 22nd year of Howell Mania, the district's version of the Special Olympics.
In the spirit of inclusion, all of the pupils who came to the park participated in events such as the long jump, long throw and relay races. And at this event, every child was a winner as they walked away with a shiny trophy that matched their glowing smiles.
According toMichael Burgos, coordinator for Howell Mania and the assistant principal/supervisor of guidance at the Griebling School, the event is important because "it gives our kids an opportunity to shine in an avenue outside the classroom, to be recognized for extracurricular activity. It offers them socialization skills, motor skills, kinesthetic involvement and adaptive physical education."
For 22 years Howell Mania has been the annual event which celebrates the school district's programs for special-education pupils.
Howell Mania co-chair Jodi Ryzoff said the event gets larger every year. She said it does more than just showcase the physical abilities of the children.
According to Ryzoff, "It teaches them socialization, how to interact with others, and patience.Alot of children have a lot of occupational therapy, and physical therapy issues…some children have problems with walking or standing … this gives them a chance to come out and do the best they can."
Laurie Finger has cochaired Howell Mania for eight years. She said it is fulfilling to be involved with the event.
"It is very rewarding
to help the children
achieve their goals and their dreams, and to be able to compete in a level of competition that could make them feel like a winner," Finger said. "This day gives our children a chance to be like everyone else."
Glen Melon, 13, a pupil at Howell Memorial Middle School, said he enjoyed the activities, especially softball.
Max Gluck, 6, a pupil at the Aldrich School, said he loved playing the games at Howell Mania, but for him the most exciting part of the day was watching Buster, the mascot of the Lakewood BlueClaws, have fun with everyone who was there.
According to VinnieAnne Bartow, president of the Howell school district's Special Education Parent Advisory Council, the cost of the event was underwritten by may supporters, including the Howell Township Education Association, the Optimist Club and the Howell Community Alliance.