MEDINA: Thursday’s frigid temperatures did not prevent preschool children from participating in the Windfall Winter Olympics, where they skated around an oval on paper plate skates and played ice hockey on tiny scooters.
Student-created Olympic banners hung on gymnasium walls announcing the event that they have been preparing for in their classrooms.
Physical education teacher Valerie Schmotzer said the Medina County Achievement Center hosted the indoor Olympic event to introduce students to the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi, Russia, beginning Feb. 6, and to promote wellness and physical fitness in a group format.
“The kids enjoy it. That comes from interacting with other kids,” Schmotzer said.
A huge mound of shredded-paper “snow” piled in the center of the gym was a hit with the youngsters. After completing the seven stations and receiving his gold medal for participating, 5-year-old Curtis Howard headed back to the pile where he said “making big snowballs and throwing them” was his favorite Olympic sport. His preferred targets were some of the 19 Medina Career Center students who were keeping a lid on the fun-filled mayhem.
Senior Paiden Carlisle, 17, who used his body as a human snowplow, piled the mounds of snow he collected on Curtis, who ended up at the bottom of a paper avalanche.
“I’m a big snowball!” Carlisle told the children.
Career center teacher Gail Connors said Carlisle and his classmates who helped shepherd little ones through the seven Olympic events are enrolled in the Sports Medicine and Exercise Science Program at the school.
“They love working with people. Most of these kids are going to college for physical therapy and athletic training. This kind of experience can help cement it,” Connors said.
In 2010, staff at the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities began holding their own version of Olympics in conjunction with the Vancouver, British Columbia, games and have continued the program each January, Schmotzer said. It is one of the monthly programs designed to bring students together for wellness and physical fitness in a fun way, she said.
Schmotzer set up each Olympic station — from the scooter-riding luge to a biathlon using plastic foam-ball ammunition — with photos of the actual event and a flag representing the country known for its success in that sport.
“I included a lot of visual prompts so the kids know where they are supposed to go,” she said.
Each event could be modified to respond to the needs of the individual child, and an adult or older student was available to help each participant.
Windfall School, which has an enrollment of 135 students, includes an integrated preschool for students ages 3-6 combining typically developing children with children with disabilities, said Pat Hetkey, special projects assistant.
The Medina County DD board provides screenings beginning at birth, she said.
Joshua Cloyes, 5, is one of the children who was evaluated at an early age, said his mother, Lauren Cloyes.
Joshua has been a client of the program his entire life, she said as she watched her son become the center of attention for a group of female admirers.
“More than anything, he like the girls around here,” she said, then with a laugh added: “He might be a ham.”
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.