ROANOKE, Va. – More than 450 participants competed on Tuesday at the Special Olympics Big Feet Meet at William Fleming High School – around 40 schools or groups in the Roanoke Valley brought athletes to compete in running and walking events, javelin, softball throw and shot put.
Nancy Morehouse, Sr. Director, Southwest Region, and Unified Sports Specialist, said most importantly, Big Feet Meet is about building a more unified school community.
The annual event is a day to honor children of all abilities, foster an inclusive school environment and hand the spotlight over to those who may not have yet had their chance to shine.
“They are the stars of the show,” said Kathy Figaro, an instructional assistant at Glenvar High School. ”I love it. it’s my favorite day of the year at school because all of the smiles. They are so excited. They absolutely love it.”
The Big Feet Meet is part of Special Olympics Virginia’s Unified Champion Schools program, which uses sports to develop school communities where youth are agents of change.
Its goal is to foster respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with disabilities.
With sports as the foundation, Morehouse said the program offers a unique combination of activities that equip young people with tools and training to create sports, classroom, and school climates of acceptance and inclusion.
“Our athletes and their peers get to know one another. They start to build respect for one another and the importance of using sports as a vehicle to bring people together on teams,” Morehouse said.
The day has become a beloved event for volunteer peer partners at Roanoke schools as well.
Miles Wilson, a William Fleming High School senior, said it’s a day of positivity.
“It’s a great experience,” Wilson said. “Making everyone feel included and everybody feel special – seeing them cross the finish line. It’s just everybody feels like they are the star because everybody is a star here.”
The “Feet Meet” series also includes the “Little Feet Meet,” which is for younger students.
To learn more about the series or the Special Olympics, visit its website.