ADDISON – Smiles, music and plenty of cheering filled Addison Trail High School’s field house and spilled out into the sunshine for the West Suburban Conference Special Needs Sports Spectacular on Tuesday.
“I wanted to make sure that our event had something for everybody here,” said Addison Trail physical education teacher Sheri D’Ambrose, who has been coordinating the event for the past four years.
The Sports Spectacular began in 1994, as a track and field competition for students with special needs, but when D’Ambrose took the reigns in 2011, she made fun her first priority.
Students raced, played basketball and tossed softballs Tuesday, but they also took advantage of three bouncy houses and other games. Senior Johnny Rodriguez said he’d been running at home in preparation for the day, but the athletics weren’t the only attraction for him.
“I love pizza,” he said.
In addition to the 12 local pizzerias that donated lunch for the 450 students and 100 volunteers at the event, students could refuel after their competitions with cotton candy, popcorn or snow cones.
D’Ambrose couldn’t wait for her newest addition to the Sports Spectacular, karaoke. She got the idea last year during the closing dance party while she was singing along in a microphone. Students kept grabbing for a chance to sing into her mic.
“I thought, ‘Hey, they want to sing. Why not do karaoke?’ ” D’Ambrose said.
Addison Trail juniors training to be senior P.E. leaders next year helped keep the students from 13 schools in the West Suburban Conference organized and make sure everyone got a turn.
In the past, D’Ambrose said the events were timed and scored, but the event has since moved away from that competitive nature in order to be more inclusive.
“It was a lot of the same kids getting the same awards,” D’Ambrose said.
Now, everyone is awarded a medal at the end of the day.
The event has gained such a reputation that Addison Trail freshman Renalda Trebicka was looking forward to her first Spectacular.
“My friends told me,” Trebicka said.
D’Ambrose said her students start talking about it each year as early as fall.
“My kids, who I teach, can’t wait for it,” D’Ambrose said.
While Trebicka and Rodriguez were both anxious to show off their basketball skills during the four-on-four tournament, D’Ambrose was happy to offer other opportunities for students to participate in the day’s events.
“We have so many different-level kids, I wanted to do an event that would appeal to more levels and get everyone involved in some way,” D’Ambrose said.