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Volleyball game gives special focus to area students

DEERING -- They came armed with brightly colored beach balls and a keen desire to bring home bragging rights.

Special education students at six Lawrence County middle and elementary schools Friday took part in a district wide volleyball tournament.

The volleyball event was part of an ongoing program aimed at allowing developmentally handicapped and behaviorally challenged children a chance to display and hone their athletic skills.

"The kids are having fun," Ironton Middle School teacher's aide Andrea Downs said. "There's a sense of belonging, a sense that they all feel equal to one another."

While espirit de corps was outcome, Dawson-Bryant Elementary teacher Melissa McDaniel said the kids are learning something, too.

"They're learning good sportsmanship, to be good winners and good losers," McDaniel said.

"They're also learning how to work as a team," Dawson-Bryant Elementary teacher Betty Hyland added. "Teamwork is a big thing."

More than 100 students took part in Friday's event. The students will take part in basketball, bowling, and track and field events later in the year.

McDaniel said ultimately, the volleyball tournament is aimed at teaching the kids that if they set their sights on achievement and try hard enough, they can reach any goal.

"They're learning that they can be successful at anything," McDaniel said. "If they just set their mind to overcoming their disabilities, they can do anything they want."