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MILLERSBURG -- Giving special needs students an opportunity to shine on a beautiful day in Millersburg was the purpose of the Special Athletes Track and Field Day on Friday, May 19, at West Holmes Knights Stadium.
"These kids won't get the chance to play on this field on Friday nights," said longtime volunteer coordinator Chuck Nicholson. "Today is their opportunity to shine. We try and make today as special for them as possible.
"You get to know the kids on an individual basis, and it's kind of interesting to watch them year after year as they progress," he continued. "Seeing the smiles on their face after their events. It's really gratifying."
Nicholson has lent his support to this event since he came to Millersburg in 1988.
"My mom was involved with special kids years and years ago, and it's been something that stayed with me," Nicholson said. "We, as a family have stayed involved. There's never enough volunteers, and we found our niche."
Mike Healy, retired special education teacher in the West Holmes district, is one of those volunteers who has been making this day happen since it started.
"I love being around the kids. I love seeing them be successful," Healy said. "The day is set up for everyone to succeed.
"We get all kinds of community support," Healy added. "We get bank people, car people, Chuck Nicholson and Village Motors. Student Council comes down and helps as huggers. That helps tremendously. It's just a great day for these kids."
Event coordinator Jeff Kinney was in charge for the first time this year, taking over for long-time business chairperson Bob Boss, who ran things since 2000.
"I learned under Bob Boss, and I have one heck of a committee," Kinney said. "I can't say enough about the committee; I'm just here to make sure everything runs smoothly. There are no good leaders without a good committee. I have a great staff of volunteers.
My biggest concern was the weather," added Kinney, "I kept my eye on it all week. It turned out to be a great day."
It was a great day for the athletes, as the miles of smiles would indicate, and the volunteers had fun as well.
Cory Allison of Village Motors said: "This is a riot. I'm really having a lot of fun."
The special athletes competed in running and walking races, individually and in relays. They also competed in long jump and the softball throw, with all the competitors receiving ribbons.
The them for the day was "We Inspire Possibilities."
Reporter Kevin Lynch can be reached at 330-674-5676 or email@example.com.