Parents of students with special needs seemed thrilled their kids got to have stands full of people cheering them on as they played the Hart Games on Monday at Valencia High School’s football field.
About 350 students from 11 different area schools participated in the Olympic-themed games, which included competitions in shot put, “javelin” throwing, relays, hurdles and dashes.
Mike Kuhlman, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District, thanked the teachers and staff who work in special education — saying that while they, and their students, were being celebrated at the event, they should be celebrated every day.
“Look at this enormous event, think about how many people have to put in time and effort to make this day what it is, and so I can only be thankful for our special education teachers and staff,” said Kuhlman. “That actually goes, by the way, every day — these people deserve medals. There’s something special in their souls to care about people the way that they do and I really appreciate that. This just exemplifies it, it’s a special day.”
Dzermina Cirkic, a mother of a La Mesa Junior High student participating in the games, said the day means a lot to her as a parent.
“It’s just, it’s one of those days where she gets to be included in activities that she normally can’t do [since] she’s in a wheelchair. So it just means a lot seeing her smiling.”
Patti Miller, director of the Hart Games, said the students have trained for months in preparation for the event.
“It’s an opportunity for all our special ed students to feel what all our gen-ed students feel and compete and have fun,” said Miller. “We’ve trained for two months at school for these events, and this is a culmination of all that.”
The event’s special guest was Trenton Irwin, a Hart High School alumnus and current wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, who said it felt good to be able to use his platform to support local special needs students.
“It’s cool to have that platform and I feel like you got to use it and you got to be able to try to give back and try to help,” said Irwin. “I’m thankful that my word or my being here could mean something to someone. I think that it means something to a lot of people just being there supporting each other in whatever they do, so it’s cool to be able to go out there and watch them go have fun.”