There was no shortage of smiles and tears as 17 new Thunderhawks worked on football drills and activities with the Grand Rapids football team as part of Victory Day Saturday at Noble Hall Field. The day served as an opportunity for special needs students in the area to be part of the team and take in the sport of football and all it has to offer.
“I believe football gives back and it should be experienced by everyone regardless of physical challenges,” said Grand Rapids head football coach Greg Spahn said.
Spahn said when he took over coaching duties for the Thunderhawks earlier this year, bringing Victory Day to the community was a top priority.
“After I was hired I called (Aaron) Segedi in Trenton, Mich. and he was an incredible help,” he said. “There was a lot of planning and I was so pleased with how the community responded, the Grand Rapids Football Association and all those who were on board right away. There were not many dry eyes (Saturday).”
Segedi, a varsity football coach at Trenton High School, held the first Victory Day in 2010 as an event for cognitively and physically impaired children.
Spahn said he hopes the event, which is held in conjuction with the the Special Olympics of Itasca County, is something that can grow year-by-year and continue be associated with Homecoming week.
“We’ll look to do this every year and have it coincide with Homecoming (and) this is what we do the Saturday after homecoming.
From the participants and their parents to players involved, it made for an exciting morning.
“We had our entire varsity squad and a vast majority of our jv (junior varsity). They ran drills and took charge. Each participant got a Grand Rapids football jersey (and) a Victory Day t-shirt,” Spahn said.
“It was an unbelievable experience. It was so incredible to see how our kids interacted with the new Thunderhawks. I’m so glad we were able to pull it off.
“We’re building better men and teaching them to give back. It’s our job to teach them about the influence they can have at a young age and how that carriers over later in their lives,” he said.
For more photos from Victory Day, visit ISD 318’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ISD318.