Special kids, special day

So often when we see/spend time with children who are differently abled we say to ourselves, “I’m so blessed that my child is healthy and doesn’t have to struggle with those disabilities.” And while that statement certainly is true — I am so grateful at how healthy my son is — I think many times we quickly overlook the blessings those children bring to the world.

Thankfully, at many stages throughout my life I’ve been lucky to be exposed to many of these special kids. Today was another example of that.

I took the morning off work and volunteered at Special Kids Day at the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival. When I first heard about this day while writing about the festival for the paper, I instantly knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. And it was such a great experience.

The Nut Club coordinates with several businesses and organizations to get volunteers so that each special education student in the entire county is paired up with a volunteer. And then the whole morning the festival rides and games are all theirs.

I was paired with Hailey, an 8th grader from an EVSC junior high. We had a blast. Her favorite ride was definitely the giant slide; we raced each other at least 10 times. And then, when she found some friends, I wasn’t as cool, and she raced them. She won nearly every time!

We rode nearly all the rides in the kiddie area, many of the others were too high or fast for Hailey’s liking, and played every game at least twice. Several times she turned to me and said, “Will you hold my hand?” And she said she had a great time! :)

Each volunteer was given huge trash bags for prizes for their student. I thought, “There’s no way we need something this big!” I was wrong. It was overflowing with balls, giant plastic hammers and stuffed toys. And then after spending the day riding rides and playing games, the students were all given cotton candy and fed burgers.

Throughout the day I saw so many of students from the special education program blessing their teachers, the volunteers, Nut Club members, the ride workers and me. I’m so lucky I had the opportunity to spend the morning with Hailey and her friends.

Growing up, I had the opportunity to see similar silver linings. I was a peer tutor at both my middle and high school spending my study hall hour working with the special education students.

I also spent a lot of time around a super special guy, Will. His parents are family friends, and my sister and I often baby sat for Will and his older brother Matt. Will was born with Down syndrome and just this week turned 19.

He’s one of the greatest kids I have had the pleasure of watching grow up and am glad he and his family are still in our lives today. I learned a lot about joy and living life to the fullest from this guy.

And on his birthday, this was a message from his mom that I saw on Facebook: “Life with Will has brought so much joy into our lives. His enthusiasm is so contagious… His ability to see the good in EVERYone he knows. I want to be like him when I grow up! Happy Birthday to my baby boy. You bring out the best in everyone; you have definitely made this little part of our world a better place, Will!”

What a blessing he is. So today was a special day that I thankfully was able to share with a lot of special people!

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