Laughter and activity echoed through the Washington Education Center Gymnasium and students smiled from ear-to-ear. Nearly 50 students served by Barton County Special Services - Special Education, attended the first-ever “Very Special Christmas Party” on Friday, December 13.
The event welcomed students and staff from Riley, Lincoln and Eisenhower elementary schools, Great Bend Middle School, Great Bend High School and Ellinwood Schools.
“This party was created to be all-inclusive,” said Jessica Nelson, special education teacher at Eisenhower Elementary. “Too often, students with special needs cannot fully access their general education classroom parties or maybe do not have an opportunity in their home building. This year, we decided to fix that!”
Nelson teamed up with Special Education Teachers Connie Ward from Great Bend Middle School and Dawn Galusha from Great Bend High School to provide this memorable event.
“The response from the community was overwhelming,” said Nelson. “Generous community partners provided all the funding for the event, allowing us to provide ample activities, a sundae bar, goodie bags and a special handpicked present for each student.”
In addition to making new memories, students had the chance to connect with old friends and past teachers. Teachers were also excited to gather, reinforcing their shared goals and passion for their students.
“It was special to see my former students and to watch them reconnect with other friends that they forgot they had,” said Nelson. “It takes a village to raise and educate a child and last week we were able to gather our village and reinforce the importance of collaboration, compassion, and empathy.”
The teachers thanked sponsors First Christian Church, Superior Essex, Makinna Ann Hope Foundation, Krebaum Chiropractic and The Upside of Down Syndrome Parent Group; the Great Bend Recreation Commission for the use of the Imagination Playground; and Ron Mink (Santa) for donating his time.