BETHANY – For Bethany College sophomore Allison Paxton, helping individuals with special needs is more than a passing interest.
“It is who I am,” the Canonsburg native said. “I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism, in the first grade.”
She called her diagnosis a closely guarded secret because of a desire to be “normal” like those around her.
But now, the student organizer of Bethany College’s first Special Olympics Field Day is sharing her own story with hopes of inspiring others.
“It was difficult because I was afraid of other’s opinions and being stifled by an autistic label,” the psychology major said. “Although, attending Bethany and planning this event has granted me the confidence to be open and honest about the joys and challenges of my diagnosis. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason.”
The Special Olympics Field Day is set for 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Thomas Phillips Johnson Health and Recreation Center. Special needs individuals of all ages will be taught the fundamentals of soccer, football, volleyball, basketball, golf, track and field, and cross country.
Paxton is a member of the Bethany soccer and track and field teams, and other college athletes from Bethany and other schools in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference are among the almost 100 volunteers who have already committed to help. The event is sponsored by the Student Activities Council, of which Paxton is vice president of traditions.
Registration for participating athletes of is open at www.bethanywv.edu/event/special-olympics/. The event is free and all participants receive a T-shirt.
Paxton is seeking donations to provide needed supplies for all the event’s sports stations, T-shirts and medals for the athletes, and food for the concession stands.
“These athletes mean the world to me, and I want them to know that anything is possible,” she said. “From experience, Iáve learned that there are people out there who consider individuals with special needs as inferior and unable to succeed in life; however, we have the capability to go above and beyond the expectations that are set for us.”
Visit the website for ways to donate.