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'Winning no matter what'

The Baltimore Sun

Bobby Stone had such a zest for competition that it seemed appropriate to hold the ninth annual Ridgeway Elementary School Invitational in his honor this year. Every time he crossed a finish line in previous years of the Special Olympics-like event, he threw his arms straight up in the air as though had won, whether or not he had.

"He just had fun," said his father, Bob Stone Sr. of Odenton. "He was winning no matter what."

Bobby, who graduated from the school in Severn last year, died in September of a lung infection. The 11-year-old had struggled with immunodeficiency problems since receiving a heart transplant as a toddler.

A picture on display at this year's Run, Jump & Throw event Thursday showed a grinning Bobby after he finished running the 50-meter dash as a second-grader. Despite splints on his legs, he enjoyed running most, said his mother Pam Stone, a substitute teacher at the school.

"He just liked having the kids cheering for him," his father said.

About 40 special-education students at the 535-student school are mainstreamed into traditional classes. The Run, Jump & Throw event is one of the ways the school has tried to integrate special-education students with other children. Students who have mental and physical disabilities are paired with other students who coach and participate alongside them in track-and-field events.

"We want them [the special education students] to be able to see that they can excel," said Ridgeway Principal Vickie Wardell.

The program is sponsored by Partners for Success, Special Olympics of Anne Arundel County and the Anne Arundel County public schools.

Participating were 160 children from Ridgeway, Brock Bridge, Jones, Marley, Millersville and Waugh Chapel elementary schools. Wardell said she has received inquiries from other schools in the county but doesn't have room to expand the event.

This is the first year Waugh Chapel has been involved. Wardell invited the school to participate because some of its students transferred from Ridgeway when the special-education program expanded.

Megan Campbell, a second-grader who is autistic, was one of those students. She and one other special-education student trained for the event with the help of four fifth-graders.

Two of the fifth-graders, Shawn Hardesty and Ben Hicks, ran with Megan in the 50-meter dash. When it came to the long jump, they jumped over and over until Megan followed suit.

Because Megan doesn't speak, the boys tried communicating in sign language and acting out the events they wanted her to participate in.

"After a while, she'll smile and she'll love it," Ben said.

Megan's father, Paul Campbell, said he hopes the event will help Megan start to socialize and learn how to talk.

"I want her to make friends," Campbell said.

Campbell, who is deaf, participated in similar athletic events when he was a child, and he encouraged Ridgeway to get in touch with Waugh Chapel.

Karen Hardesty said she is glad that her son, Shawn, had the opportunity to learn to work with children with varying abilities. "This kind of rounds him as a person," Hardesty said.

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