150 youth help athletes with special needs

TUSTIN, Calif. — About 150 youth of the Orange California Stake donated some of their summer leisure time to provide fun and physical activity to peers with special needs on June 24. Participating athletes included 22 students from the Orange County Department of Special Education at Hillview High School in Tustin, as well as seven teens with cerebral palsy from the Morris-Kerin Group Home in North Tustin. The games and dance competition were held on the fields behind Hillview High School.

The young men and young women spent several weeks prior to the event planning for it. Chairing the activities were recent high school graduates Tara Albertson and Axel Trumbo.

Grouped into "cheerleader" and "host" units, the youth assisted the special-needs athletes in a 50-yard wheelchair dash, a serpentine wheelchair "Monte Carlo" race, a wheelchair relay race, foot races, soft-football toss and kick competitions, a hula hoop roll, a parachute-teddy-bear toss and a dance competition.

"It was a great experience for me and the other kids — both to see the fun the special-needs kids had and to understand and empathize with people with disabilities," Axel said. "I think we got more out of it than the athletes, from taking the time to talk to them and play with them."

The purposes of the activity, according to adult leader Bruce Heathcote, were to give the special-needs students some organized physical activity, which they don't always have opportunity for, to let them associate with youth their age and to let the LDS youth provide service and gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by others.