Try-Athlon helps disabled and able-bodied elementary students develop strong bond

Nearly 100 students at a Silver Spring elementary school took part in a special triathlon on Friday.

This event came together after Martha Zanger, a physical education teacher at Forest Knolls Elementary School, found that able-bodied students did not know how to interact with students with disabilities during physical activities.

"I noticed that in school, in patrols, in chorus and all the inside activities, the kids that had physical challenges were included," said Martha Zanger. "But once they came out to recess, they were kind of off to the side because the other students didn't know how to play with them."

She decided to start training them for a "Try-Athlon" to help bring them all together.

"The kids who have physical disabilities are just kids and they want to be included in sports and everything else," said Zanger. "What I'm trying to get our students to understand is that we are all just people. When you see them having this much fun, I think they will get that."

The event has made a world of difference for the kids.

"You feel like you have a lot of energy, and the other kids over here watching us, they can [understand] what kids with disabilities feel like," said Kasper Syski, who is confined to a wheelchair.

"Just seeing all those kids trying to see what it's like to be regular kids like us -- running, swimming, bike riding -- I bet it's such a cool opportunity," said Cameron Newton.

For Carlos Ortiz, who contributed to his team in the running and biking events in his wheelchair, the experience has created new friendships with students he previously did not have before.

"I think they are the best friends I can ever have," he told us.

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