TOWNSEND -- North Middlesex Regional High School students gave their special-education peers an enthusiastic send-off April 29 as they prepared for a one-day Special Olympics event in Fitchburg the next day.
The pep rally was organized by the school's Best Buddies chapter, a group that partners students with their classmates in special education to form friendships. The national organization also helps to provide those with intellectual and developmental disabilities with opportunities for jobs and independence.
"The Special Olympics pep rally brings everyone together -- teachers, administrators, athletes, students, parents and friends -- to celebrate the accomplishments of the Special Olympians and to support all of their efforts," said Julie McIntyre, coach of the Special Olympics team.
McIntyre said that all of her students are amazing, and that their accomplishments are consistently recognized by their peers.
"We have a very accepting community here at North Middlesex and it's a place where special-needs students are always welcome and have opportunities to foster many different friendships," McIntyre said.
Lauren Pick, who will serve as the president of Best Buddies next school year, said the event is one of her favorites of the year.
"It's so great to get all these people together. A lot of kids don't know a lot about Best Buddies and this can introduce them to what we do and the beauty of the program," Pick said.
The pep rally featured performances by the varsity cheerleaders, a version of the national anthem that was sung by the school's choir and signed by students in an American Sign Language class, as well as words from both McIntyre and the athletes about Special Olympics.
The event was also a send-off for the unified track team, in which both special education and regular students compete together. The team had its first meet last week.
Special Olympian Connor Dee said he was competing for the first time this year, and was having fun so far.
"Any special-needs student should try to do it," Dee said.
Dawn Chappell, who serves as the adviser for Best Buddies, said the pep rally is a great example of the support the Special Olympians receive at North Middlesex.
"The other pep rallies are wonderful, but so sports specific. This is one where the whole school can appreciate how hard the inclusion athletes work," Chappell said. "Our students often appreciate the hard work of the Special Olympians even more than the general education athletes."
For Patti Washburn, assistant principal at North Middlesex, the pep rally is one of the highlights of each school year.
"It brings many students together and is another way to honor our student athletes. I look forward to it every spring," Washburn said.