True Strength initiative brings awareness to individuals with special needs

ROSS TWP. — It was more than just a game of basketball Tuesday night at Ross High School.

The True Strength Ability Awareness program came away with a decisive victory.

The initiative kicked off in front of a packed gymnasium during the Ross versus Harrison boys basketball game — with a focus on aiming to foster a supportive and inclusive environment where all students and faculty help kids with challenges feel safe and valued.

Both school communities sported custom T-shirts that were purchased and used to raise funds in the process. All proceeds raised throughout the evening were given back to the Ross and Harrison communities to assist with their respective special needs departments.

“It’s easy to overlook individuals facing challenges, but often, they simply require a helping hand to unlock their unique strengths,” said Darren Walters of Headlines Sportswear, which has partnered with True Strength.

“The True Strength Ability Awareness program strives to empower young people to discover their abilities and guides them on a path towards achieving their full potential. By fostering understanding and celebrating diverse strengths, the program aims to create a more inclusive and enriching learning environment for all.”

Ross student committee member Maddie Davis is just one of the many individuals assisting with efforts in lifting True Strength off the ground.

Davis said the program is ultimately an umbrella that stems off All Champions Day — which brings together Ross High School’s special education teams during a Special Olympics field day that takes place in May.

“We sort of built this off of that. We wanted to acknowledge something that is very important in our school,” Davis said. “We wanted to acknowledge our special education team. Many people see disability, but we see opportunity. We don’t want it to be anything different. It’s something to make these kids feel special.”

Rose Kappesser, an intervention specialist at Ross, was approached by Walters and Headlines Sportswear after they paid a visit to witness the Special Olympics event.

“They wanted to do something even bigger with that concept,” Kappesser said. “It’s all about bringing people together despite their differences.”

While Ross defeated Harrison 55-45 on Tuesday night, Rams coach David Lane said having both schools compete as part of the cause made sense.

“You have to give both departments from Ross and Harrison a bunch of credit in getting this organized,” Lane said. “We always talk to our guys about being bigger than basketball. A lot of the stuff that we do has deeper meaning. This was an opportunity for us to really showcase that things are more than wins and losses.

“Of course, we want to win every game,  but in the grand scheme of things, nights like tonight really put things into perspective.”

Harrison basketball coach Andy Marx mirrored Lane’s sentiment.

“I thought it was a really great night,” Marx said. “It was really neat for the kids to experience that. We talk to our kids about being servant leaders. It tells us how blessed we are and the kind of support system that’s out there.”

Ross athletic director Justin Beck said the event won’t be the last of its kind.

“Everyone involved did a fantastic job,” he said. “We’re so appreciate to have such a supportive community and looking forward to doing this again.”

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