The music was rocking, the cheering was loud, and the spirits were high as more than 40 students at Friendship School wheeled their way around campus in the 10th annual Wheel-A-Thon fundraiser.
The event, in which volunteers push students in wheelchairs in laps around campus, is something both students and volunteers look forward to each year.
“It’s an opportunity for the students to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and have fun,” said Friendship School Principal Diana Lynn. “You see the smiles on their faces when they realize it’s fun. It’s invigorating for them because it’s not just a stroll around the block.”
Some students moved at a speedier pace while others enjoyed a nice walk.
Laura Alvarado, whose son Jorgie has participated in the event every year since he started at the school in 2013, was there to push her son again this year.
“He gets really excited and is all smiles and laughs the whole time,” she said.
While having fun is the main objective, parents say there are social benefits for their children as well.
“It makes them feel included and a part of something,” Alvarado said. “The bigger the crowd, the more it makes them feel like the center of attention.”
Jerry Fecher said his son, Jerry, often has challenges in situations with a lot of people, but since he is familiar with the staff and volunteers, he’s able to enjoy the event.
“He gets to see his classmates and he loves to go fast,” said Fecher. “It makes him happy.”
In its 10th year, the Wheel-A-Thon raises funds to purchase assistive technology that enhances the students’ learning experience. The goal this year is to buy several Beamz devices, which are interactive music systems that use lasers to trigger musical instruments, sound effects, songs, and more. Flat donations are accepted rather than an amount per lap to ensure the focus remains on fun for the students, not fundraising.
Volunteers included parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives of Friendship School students, as well as several past and present San Diego County Office of Education employees, and Board of Education member Guadalupe González.
Friendship School provides specialized instruction for students ages 3 to 22 who are medically fragile with multiple disabilities. If you would like to support the school in its fundraising efforts, please contact them 619-628-5645 to learn more.