Athey Creek leadership group sponsors Zumba event to benefit Unified Sports

Students at Athey Creek Middle School in West Linn celebrated Disability Awareness the week of March 17. In the process of honoring students’ differences, the school’s Natural Helpers unify committee raised more than $300 through events held each day during the week. by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Seventh-grader Aiden Anderson gets into the spirit of the event at Athey Creek Natural Helpers zumba dance party.

The money was earmarked for programs to provide opportunities for students with special needs through a program called Unified Sports that pairs special needs athletes with athletes from the general education population.

“We will be giving $50 to Wilsonville High’s Unified Soccer Team, $50 to Wilsonville High’s Unified Basketball team and using the rest to start our own West Linn Unified Basketball team,” Natural Helper adviser Toni Snapp TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Special education instructor Toni Snapp leads the group.

Beyond fundraising, the week’s events were designed to provide a variety of opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to come together and forge relationships. During lunch periods, students were invited to sign a banner pledging to show respect and to receive a respect wristband as a reminder.

After-school events included two Zumba dance parties, a bingo party, a kickball game and a pizza/movie night. All events were open to the public and admission was free, although donations were encouraged.

Eighth-graders Julia Lamb and Morgan Schutzler were two of the students involved in planning the week’s events. Respect for and honoring of difference is the key to their work on the Natural Helpers’ unify committed. Both the girls take part in a special academy class that allows them to work with Athey Creek’s special-needs students.

“We just see them as people who need a little more help,” Julia said.

“There’s a whole variety of things this week,” Morgan said. Thursday’s event — a kickball game in the gym — was a highlight of the week, in part because the special-needs students got to pick the TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Weston Miller, left, and Kali Burkhartzmeyer follow along.

Athey’s leadership group plans to expand their efforts, Morgan said, “so it’s not just one week but all year.”by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Kathy Versteef, left, and Denise Zanner get their zumba on at the fundraiser to benefit Wilsonville High Schools Unified Sports program.

Snapp reported that more than 70 people attended the second Zumba session on April. The attendance level seemed to indicate ongoing interest, she said, and the committee was exploring opportunities to hold monthly events.

“They are a great group of students with kind hearts,” Snapp said.

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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