SALEM, Va. – An “inclusion revolution” has been happening at schools across Southwest Virginia as athletes of all abilities come together on the playing field.
The annual Special Olympics “Little Feet Meet” is a celebration of that movement, and after being on hold in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, lots of little feet took over Roanoke College’s track and field in Salem on Wednesday.
The Little Feet Meet is a culmination of Special Olympics’ partnership with local schools to build inclusive communities and a level playing field for athletes of all abilities.
“We want every student at every school to know that we celebrate all abilities and we really, really believe in this inclusive community that Special Olympics is helping to build,” said Nancy Morehouse, Southwest Region Director for Special Olympics Virginia.
This year’s Little Feet Meet brought together nearly 200 volunteers from local schools, law enforcement departments and the community, and nearly 500 students from elementary schools across the Roanoke Valley to experience the joy of movement and the thrill of competition. The Little Feet Meet is for students in preschool and elementary school.
Glenvar Elementary fourth grader Charli Carpenter said he took part in the 50-meter run and the softball throw. He said the Little Feet Meet is a big highlight for him.
When asked his favorite aspect of the event, Carpenter replied, “Everybody comes together!”
This year marked the first year Roanoke College hosted the event. Previous Little Feet Meets have been held at Roanoke County’s Northside High School.
Morehouse said events like this can not only be life-changing for students, but they can also open an entire family’s eyes to the opportunities Special Olympics can provide.
“It may be the first time many of our families have ever seen their son or daughter do a sport activity, because they’re still in elementary school. They haven’t thought that much about involving their kid in sports, and then, all of a sudden they make the connection, ‘My kid can do Special Olympics’ and this could be a lifelong thing for them, involvement in sports,” Morehouse said.
The “Feet Meet” series also includes the “Big Feet Meet,” which is for middle and high school students.