Making Joyful Noise

January 27, 2018

SCRANTON — More than 200 students from area schools hopped through an obstacle course, took turns fishing for toy fish in a pool, and bent, crawled and walked beneath a limbo pole Friday at Riverfront Sports.

The Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit’s annual sports challenge for students with special needs filled the plush green turf fields at the complex. The challenge brings together students from across the region at a time when they’re often stuck inside because of cold weather, said Keith Toolan, an adaptive physical education teacher for the NEIU.

The challenge also benefits the community. The only “fee” for schools to join is to bring nonperishable items for the Keystone Mission in Scranton, which provides assistance to the community.

Carbondale Area’s Gabe Wall, 14, was busy with a group of students who waved a rainbow parachute in the air while balls rolled in its middle.

“This is my first time,” the eighth-grader said. “It’s awesome.”

Ariel Carrillo joined the challenge for the second year.

Carrillo, 21, a student in the NEIU’s Victory Village Program, said she enjoys watching the younger kids participate.

Toolan, who organized the event, remarked at the energy in the sports complex Friday. He travels throughout the region, teaching physical education to students with special needs, and knew many of the students at the challenge.

Colin Hazelton was one of 12 volunteers from Mid Valley High School who helped Friday.

Each year, the high school sends student athletes to the challenge, said Toolan.

It was his first time volunteering. Colin, 17, who plays basketball and football, said the best part was “just the kids being so joyful.”

Sarah Noldy from Lakeland Elementary’s Mayfield Campus is a personal care aide for Noel Good and took part in the challenge with her.

“Just seeing her grow and change and the things she can learn and do is exciting,” said Noldy. “I love what I do.”

The special needs students work on their social skills at events like the sports challenge, said Kate McLane, an autistic support teacher for the NEIU.

“It’s nice for them to know they’re not alone,” McLane said. “It gives them more confidence.”

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