Willow School students and staff paraded around the building in support of the Special Olympics team members who competed in games Saturday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Education, Local News, Sports

A parade and cheers for Special Olympians at Willow School

There was plenty of clapping and cheering as Special Olympians paraded around Willow School in Homewood on Friday, May 5.

The nine athletes and their 10 second grade peer partners have been practicing all year for the Region E Spring Games at Thornwood High School on Saturday, May 6. They’ll participate in the parade of schools and opening ceremonies. Then they compete in the tennis ball throw and a 50-meter run. 

Willow School teacher PattiJo Boehm walks in the Special Olympics parade Friday. Boehm is one of the coaches for Willow's Special Olympics team that participated in a Special Olympics event Saturday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Willow School teacher PattiJo Boehm walks in the Special Olympics parade Friday. Boehm is one of the coaches for Willow’s Special Olympics team that participated in a Special Olympics event Saturday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

The students are competing against themselves. Once in third grade, Special Olympians compete against athletes from other schools in Region E.

Kendra Duncan, Daily Living Skills teacher at Willow School, said it is the second year Willow has used peer partners, students without a disability who pair with students who are in special education classes or have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Willow School is now recognized by Special Olympics as a Unified Champion School. That requires Willow to present special activities and raise funding for events. Duncan said as part of Spirit Week, Willow teachers included Respect Week to help students learn about others with autism, Down syndrome and other disabilities, and understand their special needs. Every student in the school signed a Respect Week banner.

Willow School students and staff paraded around the building in support of the Special Olympics team members who competed in games Saturday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Willow School students and staff paraded around the building in support of the Special Olympics team members who competed in games Saturday. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

One of Willow’s fundraisers was having Daily Living Skills students and their peers sell popcorn to teachers this semester. They promoted the sale by making posters, and they wore aprons and chef hats as they walked through the building. A bakery in Indiana shared its profits for a fundraiser for Willow School.

The Special Olympics coaches at Willow are Colleen Spain, PattiJo Boehm, Tamika Bledsoe and Duncan. 

Duncan said their special activities will culminate on May 24, when Daily Living Skills has a cookout and games and students will get certificates for their achievements.

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