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Special needs students take on half-marathon

Team Hope is taking part in the Bermuda Day half-marathon to raise funds for Dame Marjorie Bean (Photo by Akil Simmons)

The Island’s only dedicated school for children with special needs is inviting students to take part in the upcoming half-marathon to raise badly needed funds.

Four students from the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy, aided by strollers, will for the first time take part in the full 13-mile event on Monday. A fifth student is hoping to complete part of the relay course on foot.

Friends of Hope Academy, a charitable body now in its 10th year, raises money each year for various school services, including a number of camps.

The idea to involve the students in the half-marathon came from Friends of Hope volunteers Elin Daniels and Vicky Malik, who took part in a similar race overseas.

Hope Academy’s acting principal, Margaret Phillips, said: “When they came to us with the idea we said yes, great, because it is all about the students.

“We also want to bring more awareness to the school because I have found that Dame it is a very well kept secret on the Island. We are making sure that everyone knows our students, and people with special needs generally, are a part of our community and can participate.

“Some of our children have physical needs and [the half-marathon] would be too long for them to do the whole journey.

“Our youngest participant is 7 and our oldest is 12.

“Friends of Hope Academy’s main emphasis has been respite for the students. They support our summer programme at WindReach and also our Easter and Christmas camps.

“In years past they supported an overseas camp which offers a breath for parents because many of them are on duty 24/7. However, this year they won’t be able to do that because the monies have dwindled significantly.

“It is just because of the economic climate but we hope with this event we will get a substantial amount. If there are any dire needs people have been able to make specific requests for funding.”

Jose Lopez, a parent of a Hope Academy student and director for the Friends of Hope Academy charity, said: “The economic climate is so difficult and so the directors decided we needed to do something to make sure we store up our funds so we can do this going forward, and there are funds available for other needs as well.

“It’s our hope that with the help of Team Hope we will be able to restore the summer camps again next year.”

Students at the Government-run school are between the ages of 4 and 18, with moderate to severe multiple challenges. They are taught an adapted curriculum that includes language and literacy, functional maths, living and communication skills, physical education, and social, vocational and recreational skills.

Friends of Hope volunteer Ms Daniels added: “We were inspired to raise awareness of the school and to give the children that are able to take part a unique opportunity to take part in what is an amazing Bermuda sporting event. Those are the drivers for us.”

• To make a donation visit www.friendsofhopeacademy.bm. There are also opportunities to volunteer for the school, e-mail Julie Lynn at jperry@moed.bm