Getting special ed students involved in sports is goal of two H-F seniors

  Cori Hoekstra is ready to pass the ball to
  Michael Gordon, a special education student
  who got to help at the field hockey match
  on Sept. 4.
(Photos by Marilyn Thomas/
  H-F Chronicle)
 
It may be a field hockey rivalry, but before teams for Homewood-Flossmoor High School and Stevenson High School took the field, they gathered for a photo that showed off the players in their blue Special Olympics T-shirts.
 
  Maggie McNellis walks
  back to the sidelines
  with her brother,
  Quinn McNellis, a
  special education
  student, after he placed
  the yellow ball on
  the red 50-yard line
  to start the Sept. 4
  field hockey game.

 
The effort, led by H-F students Cori Hoekstra and Maggie McNellis, has thus far raised $1,500 for Special Olympics. But the two seniors said their effort also was to get special education students involved in sporting events.
 
For the field hockey game Sept. 4, two H-F special education students took part.  Michael Gordon handled the coin toss and Quinn McNellis put the ball on the 50-yard line to start the game. They also were responsible for chasing wayward balls.
 
“It’s really cool that they’re doing this,” Dan Vosnos, H-F Athletics Department chairperson, said of Cori and Maggie’s efforts. “Leadership like that, it’s outstanding.”
 
H-F is one of a handful of high schools in Illinois hosting unified teams that give general population and special needs students the chance to represent their schools as a team. This year H-F will have unified soccer, basketball and track teams.
 
  Michael Gordon, a special
  education student at
  Homewood-Flossmoor
  High, looks up at the
  coin he tossed to start
  the field hockey game on
  Sept. 4.

 
But Cori and Maggie came up with the idea of including special education students because they may be a population with limited abilities but they can have fun by handling simple tasks for games. 
 
At the end of the last school year, they approached head coaches with their idea. Coaches for girls field hockey, boys hockey, girls and boys water polo teams, girls basketball, girls track and boys varsity baseball agreed to get involved.
 
Julie Gaham, varsity coach for field hockey, even carried the message to a meeting of seven field hockey coaches and they all agreed with the idea. They usually do philanthropic initiatives, and at Gaham’s urging decided to support the H-F Special Olympics drive. All team members bought a blue T-shirt with the field hockey logo on the front and the names of the seven schools participating on the back. The sale of 400 shirts raised $1,500.
 
Cori and Maggie say that’s just the beginning. The remaining six H-F teams will host their own fundraisers for Special Olympics during their sporting season, and include special education students in one of their games. 
 
The two seniors, both from Homewood, are planning on majoring in special education in college. They both have been volunteers at Special Olympics events.
 
“We are just so happy we could be a part of it. I’m just in awe of their passion and drive to do this,” said Angela Taylor, director of special education at H-F.
 
“It’s very important to make sure that the message of respect, awareness and inclusion resonates within the school. I believe it does. This just further enhances it,” Taylor said.


  Homewood-Flossmoor and Stevenson high school
  field hockey team members take a group photo in
  their blue T-shirts that benefitted Special Olympics.
  Two H-F students initiated the T-shirt fund drive
  that involved seven high schools.

 

 

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