Exceptional Children from four area schools have a fun-filled day at RISE Indoor Sports

Published 12:10 am Thursday, April 14, 2022

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It was bigger and by all accounts, even better.

The smiles on the faces of more than 90 children said all that needed to be said throughout the day on April 5 at RISE Indoor Sports in Bermuda Run.

It was the second gathering of Exceptional Children from area high schools since February to participate in a unique day of fun, but this time there were reinforcements. There were also a few new wrinkles, a couple of new activities, and the Chick-fil-A cow, which was among the most popular attractions of the day.

The cow made its rounds throughout the facility, posing for photos with a lot of the participants and giving them high fives and hugs. Chick-fil-A in Clemmons graciously donated chicken sandwiches to feed everyone involved.

This time, there were three additional schools — West Forsyth, Davie County and Ledford — that brought students to participate, joining the students from Mount Tabor High School, which was the only school that participated in the inaugural event on Feb. 1. The students were divided in eight groups with 12-13 students in each group to participate in activities such as cornhole, volleyball, soccer and new additions broom ball, relay races and a basketball station.

Robyn Wesselman, a health and PE teacher at Mount Tabor, once again was the ringleader in getting the event organized. She also recruited almost 30 Teacher Cadets — students from Mount Tabor — to help lead the activities.

“You plan and you hope everything turns out like you envision it,” Wesselman said. “I think the kids have really enjoyed themselves and that’s all you can really ask for. I think the biggest obstacle I saw coming in was not knowing how they might react to being mixed in with kids from other schools. But it looks like everyone enjoyed that aspect of it, too. They’ve been involved, they’ve been participating in everything, and it’s good to see all the smiles I’ve seen today. A key piece to that is seeing the awesome job these Teacher Cadets have done in keeping them engaged in the activities. That’s been a huge plus.”

West Forsyth brought 15 of its students to participate.

Sara Billings, a teacher’s assistant for the OCS program at West, said she saw the first article that was written in the Courier in February and knew she needed to have her students be a part of it should it happen again.

“I saw that someone who was here for the first one posted the story on social media, and I just thought ‘how awesome is this?’ Billings said. “I knew I wanted these kids to take part in this if they were going to do another one. I reached out to Savannah (Sperlazza, who works for WSFCS was in attendance for the first event as well as the second event) and asked her what I needed to do to get our kids involved. She put me in touch with Robyn (Wessleman), and she came over and we collaborated on how we could be involved for this one.”

Billings was emotional when talking about the day and the amount of joy she said it brought to her students.

“We used to play in basketball games against other schools from time to time, but that has gone away recently after everything we’ve been through the last couple of years,” Billings said, her voice starting to trail off. “It broke my heart that these kids weren’t getting that chance anymore. But this gives us that chance. It has been very organized and the feedback I’m getting from our students is that they can’t wait to do it again. This is just a great opportunity for all of them to have fun together. I’m so thankful that we got to be a part of it.”

Jodi McIntosh, who is the lead adapted PE teacher for WSFCS schools, was asked by Wesselman to lend a hand for the event. McIntosh was unable to attend the first one in February and knows a lot of the students who participated from traveling to schools to introduce PE activities for them there.

“Robyn asked me if I could help get some things set up and lead the warm-up activities,” McIntosh said, and then added with a laugh “How can I saw no to that? I know a lot of these kids and have known them since middle school in some cases. This has been a lot of fun today and a great opportunity to see these kids having a great time. Something we can really be proud of being a part of. It’s great that they are getting to come out and play with kids from other schools. This is something we’d love to see more of in the future. Robyn is doing a great job of organizing everything and giving them these opportunities. We can definitely continue to see it evolve and maybe even get to the point of having tournaments or competitions between the schools.”

Wesselman said that introducing a competitive element is definitely something that’s on the radar.

“We’d love to get to the point where the kids even sign up for an activity and train in that activity for an hour, 90 minutes, then break for lunch, and come back in compete in that activity. Really teach them the aspects of volleyball or basketball and how it is played so that when we can unify them with a typical student, they aren’t as intimidated or feeling like they are left out. All we want is for them to feel comfortable in their environment and hopefully, this gives them a chance to feel that way and they can take it back to a regular day at school.”

Because the school year is winding down, another event before the end of the year isn’t likely to happen. Wesselman said that it is likely that something can take place in early September, however, once school has started back for everyone.

“We’ll sit down and evaluate how things went and figure out how we want to tweak it for next time and make it even better,” Wesselman said. “We’ll get feedback from the West people, the Davie people and the Ledford people and see where things might go from here. But I would definitely deem today a major success.”