- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Smiling faces and giddy laughter are contagious when a group of Williamstown students get together to play soccer and duck-duck-goose.
Welcome to the Friendship Foundation, a newly formed club that features special education students being mentored by their fellow Williamstown School students.
“All the teachers have to have a club,” said special education teacher Vicke Crowder. “Because we were special education teachers we decided to pair up our disabled students with non-disabled students to foster friendships.”
Crowder sponsors the club with teachers Jada Ray, Tim Moore and Vicki Brownfield.
About 50 students participate in the club, which dove into cold water in even colder temperatures during the Polar Bear Plunge in Lexington on Feb. 21 to raise money for the Special Olympics of Kentucky.
Being in the club allows senior Emily Webster the opportunity to spend time with her sister, 5-year-old Genna Webster.
“She does things at school that she doesn’t at home,” Emily said. “To see the way she interacts with the kids and seeing her go off and play with others and by herself is great. It’s good to see how she is progressing through the stuff that she needs to.”
“I like everything about it,” she said. “It’s a different kind of atmosphere when you’re with (the special education students.) It makes me happy to do this.”
Junior Shelby Horn, president of the Friendship Foundation, said the club also will help her decide whether she wants to teach kindergarten or special education when she graduates from college.
“I like that they are always positive and they like to smile,” she said. “They always laugh and are hilarious. They brighten anybody’s day when they talk to you.”
Along with community-based instruction, the students take a field trip every other Friday to Sports of All Sorts on Mount Zion Road in Florence to play games and have fun.
Eric Doyle, a 2008 Williamstown Senior High graduate, took over the soccer field at the business in August 2008.
He allows the club to use the space free of charge and provides lunch for the students.
Doyle is wheelchair-bound after a car accident when he was younger.
“They’re our guinea pigs,” Doyle said with a laugh. “We wanted to start something similar to this with more than just Williiamstown Schools to see if it would take off. But, we knew Williamstown wouldn’t hold it against us if it didn’t work out. So far, it seems to be going real well.”
Doyle is a freshman at Northern Kentucky University, where he is majoring in sports business.
“You always have to remember where you came from,” he said. “We still talk to everybody in Williamstown at school every once in awhile. You build those friendships.”
Eric’s mother, Robin Doyle, said the partnership between the Friendship Foundation and the soccer facility was a fit that provides an important opportunity for the students.
“I think it’s good because I know what it’s like when (Eric) didn’t have things he could do,” she said. “For them to have an opportunity to be able to do something and feel part of a team and part of a sport is great. Other times, they may feel like they can’t do it. This gives them the opportunity.”
When they are not playing freeze tag or duck-duck-goose, John Vallandingham, a veteran coach who grew up in Grant County, teaches the students soccer drills.
The goal is for the special education students to develop muscle memory by using games that replicate soccer, Vallandingham said.
“We don’t use repetitious games,” he said. “They’re active games, so they have a lot more fun with it. It’s really been so worthwhile to do this.”
Lisa Logan, the school’s contracted physical therapist through Commonwealth Physical Therapy in Dry Ridge, also attends many of the trips to Sports of All Sorts.
Having worked with the students in the school, Logan said she can see how beneficial the program has been.
“This has been wonderful for these kids,” she said. “It’s so good for all ages. These are kids who may not ever have the opportunity to play soccer, let alone have instruction in soccer. It gives them directed play. They’re actually out there doing specific things. It works on their eye-hand coordination, their endurance, their strength, their walking ability. When they’re here, they work on everything that I work on in the schools, except it’s much more fun this way.”
Out of everything the Friendship Foundation does, Richard Moore, a 17-year-old special education senior, said he likes to play soccer.
“It’s lots of fun,” he said. “You get to know people a lot more and have fun with everybody.”