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A Day of Fun for All

Milford Fire Fighter Scott Marshall gives a medal to one of the athletes during the School Day Games. Milford's first responders were honored at the annual event.

Music and laughter filled the air on the Milford High School football field as the district celebrated its 4th annual School Day Games on April 28.

Sponsored by the Milford Public Schools and the Special Olympics, the School Day Games pairs together special needs students with a buddy for a day of fun activities that focus on motor skill development.

The day of fun kicked off with the athletes and their buddies being announced onto the field to begin the games. For the next few hours, over 150 special needs students in grades PreK-8 and their buddies rotated through different fun activity stations including bowling, basketball, ring toss, free dancing, and accuracy throw games.

Over 100 people volunteered to help run the School Day Games including teachers, aides, and students from the Milford High School Chapter of the Best Buddies Program.

"I started with Best Buddies four years ago," said Best Buddies President and MHS senior Audrey Bushey, who was one of the 40-plus high school volunteers that day. "I fell in love with the program and how easily everyone meshed together."

The younger athletes also received help from some special volunteers as they competed in the different events.

"There are about 25 Special Olympians here helping out today," said Best Buddies Co-Advisor Nathan Gaucher. "It's a good way for them to give back to the program. They get to be leaders, which makes them feel empowered."

Since its first event in 2014, the Special Day Games has more than doubled its size, in both the special needs students and volunteers. Milford's Transition/Vocation Coordinator and Milford Special Olympics founder Jennifer Walsh said that the idea for the "Special Day Games" came from a goal to expose the stu-

dents to all that the Special Olympics had to offer.

"I want people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have the same opportunities as everyone else," she said. "To be able to participate in an activity after school like other kids do."

This year, the School Day Games were dedicated to the Milford's first responders. "We wanted to honor our Fire Fighters and Police for all that they do for us," said Walsh. "The children just love them."

And the feeling seems to be mutual, as a good number of first responders came out to support the athletes on their special day. "This is incredible," said Milford Fire Fighter Scott Marshall. "It's so nice to see the kids out here competing and laughing and having fun."

Brookside Elementary School 2nd grader Dean Rappazini participates in the 4th Annual School Day Games on April 28. The School Day Games is a way to expose students to all that the Special Olympics have to offer.

The event ended with a touching closing ceremony where athletes and their buddies were presented with a medal by members of the Milford Fire Department.


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