AP NEWS

Coleen Walker Relays empower special needs students

March 28, 2019

The blowup tunnel was up. The Falconettes were performing. The band was playing, and the JROTC presented the colors.

More than 200 volunteers from Hargrave and Crosby High School and over 135 participants came out to Falcon Stadium in Huffman on March 27 for the Coleen Walker Relays, a day of outdoor activities for special education students from Huffman and Crosby ISDs named after Coleen Walker, a long-time life skills teacher at Crosby High School.

Among the activities were a putting station that the Hargrave golf team staffed, a tee ball station that the Hargrave and Crosby softball teams staffed, a knock-the-bottles-over station that the Hargrave student athletic trainers staffed and a bowling station with inflatable bowling ball and pins that the Hargrave Italian club staffed.

Each participant had a volunteer or two who spent the entire time with him or her.

“It means a lot to come out here and get to play games like basketball with them,” said Jace Janak, a Hargrave senior and member of the Hargrave basketball team. “It’s good to see them smiling doing the things that I love.”

Both the Hargrave boys and girls soccer teams had opening round playoff games that Friday, yet many players from both teams were out volunteering and staffing an activity where participants scored goals on the team’s goalie.

“I think it’s great for the kids to have a day that’s not about them,” said Hargrave boys soccer coach Chris McDermand. “Even though we’re in the middle of starting a playoff run for our team, they get to put that to the side and do something completely for somebody else, to completely remove themselves, and I think that’s extremely important, not just for sports, for life too.”

The Coleen Walker Relays, which started in 2005, rotate between Hargrave and Crosby High School every other year.

Mike McEachern, the Hargrave Football coach and Huffman ISD athletic director enjoyed seeing so many kids getting outside and being active.

Several participants spent most of the time running around the field with their volunteer rather than participating in the organized activities.

McEachern introduced the event by saying that the only rule was to have fun.

“I saw smiles from ear to ear, pure enjoyment,” he said. “That was from participants, and at the same time, I saw the same smiles from the volunteers.”

elliott.lapin@hearst.com