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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Matthew Harding from Mapleton Junior High shoots bow and arrow during Special Education Extravaganza.

MAPLETON — Mentally and physically challenged students paired off with their peers Monday in a Special Education Extravaganza that was the brainchild of local teachers.

Originally intended just for special education kids at Mapleton Junior High, the event expanded to include all junior high students throughout the Nebo School District, said physical education teacher Linda Lewis. She and Jo Edan Parker conceived the idea. The concept took hold and district officials ran with it and provided the awards, first-, second- and third-place medals.

All the students who were paired with the special education kids were from Mapleton Junior High, said Pam Norton, a district program specialist for special education.

Sixty-five handicapped kids participated while 85 Mapleton Junior High students assisted, kept score or served as judges during the series of games including archery, T-ball and Frisbee golf. For special ed student Matthew Zawrotny, the best game was T-ball. But he was also happy to see his friends who attend other schools, said student Hudson Sheranian.

Sheranian worked with the taller and huskier Zawrotny and was impressed with his athletic effort.

"Matthew did really well on every event," Sheranian said. "This means a lot to them. You can just tell by their faces how much they're loving it."

The first-time event was held on the expansive athletic field at Mapleton Junior High with track and field and other game equipment set up to accommodate the students. It's expected to become an annual event.

Teachers accompanied their enthusiastic students from throughout the district.

"It's been awesome," teacher Alison Powell said. "There's a lot of inclusion going on here."

Both groups of students have gotten to know each other, she said. "Friendships have been built."

E-mail: rodger@desnews.com