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4th Annual ‘Partners In Strength’ Held At Willard High School

When you hear the term "high school," you might conjure up images of football or basketball games, where the hero of the day was the school's top athelete. But some kids are not meant to experience the roar of the crowd cheering them on to victory...or at least, they thought they weren't. KSMU's Mike Donnelley attended an annual event that puts special-needs kids together with athletes who are at the top of their game.

[Sound: crowd cheering on athlete]What is your definition of strong? For some it may be brute muscle.[sound: weightlifting athlete grunting]But for all the athletes here, being strong is having the spirit of a champion, and it doesn’t matter whether you can bench press 200 pounds or not. [Sound: crowd cheering on teams introduction]On Monday evening, the 4th annual “Partners In Strength” was held at Willard High School. Jon Gold is the founder of the annual event.

“This event is the help promote unity between our high school athletes and our students with special needs that are in our district. It’s a night to forget about someone’s weaknesses and focus on their strengths and their similarities, instead of their differences,” he said.[Sound: Team chanting]The event pairs together high school athletes and kids with physical and mental disabilities to compete in a series of relay-style events. Some athletes also participated in weightlifting demos between the main events to excite the crowd and the special needs students they were paired up with.Gold says that organizers soon realized the untapped potential of his high school athletes, and pushed them outside of their comfort zones to focus on the students with special needs.“What ended up happening was we realized that night that the people that got the most blessing out of it were the athletes when they ended up serving other people,” he said.The athletes seemed to be happy to help. Jamar Johnson is an athlete who is participating in Partners in Strength.“I think it’s pretty cool, you know. It’s good to get out and hang with these special kids because these guys are awesome. No matter what you do, they’re going to be happy with it. So, it’s awesome,” he said.[Sound: Cheers]Throughout the night, the athletes and their partners bonded through sweat and loud cheers.

[Sound: Partners in Strength particpant]

“Awesome!”The event was held in the Willard High School gym, and included dinner for all of the athletes and their families.For KSMU News, I’m Mike Donnelly.[Sound fades out]