Parents of students with special needs seemed delighted that their children received bleachers full of people cheering them on as they played the Hart Games on Monday at Valencia High School’s soccer field.
About 350 students from 11 district schools took part in the Olympic-themed games, which included shot put, javelin throw, relay, hurdles and snatch competitions.
Mike Kuhlman, William S. Hart Union High School District Superintendent, thanked special education teachers and staff, saying that while they and their students are honored at the event, they should be honored every day.
“Look at this great event, think of how many people have to put in the time and effort to make this day what it is, and so I can only thank our teachers and special education staff,” Kuhlman said. “By the way, this goes every day – these people deserve medals. There is something special in their souls that they care about people the way they do, and I really appreciate it. It’s just an example that this is a special day.”
Dzermina Chirkik, the mother of a La Mesa High School 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 has to do things she usually can’t do. [since] she is in a wheelchair. So it just means a lot to see her smiling.”
Patty Miller, director of Hart Games, said the students had been training for months preparing for the event.
“This is an opportunity for all of our special education students to experience what all of our general education students feel, to compete and have fun,” Miller said. “We’ve been preparing at school for these events for two months, and this is the culmination of it all.”
The event’s special guest was Trenton Irwin, a Hart High School alumnus and current wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, who said he was pleased to be able to use his platform to support local students with special needs.
“It’s cool to have this platform and I feel like you should be using it and you should be able to try to give back and try to help,” Irwin said. “I am grateful that my word or my presence here can mean something to someone. I think it means something to a lot of people who just support each other in everything they do, so it’s great to be able to get out there and watch them have fun.”