Facing a miniature soccer goal, a 7-year-old girl stood ready for the ball Thursday during a play day for about 400 Harlandale Independent School District special education students. But the goalie’s forceful kick sent it speeding past her.
She turned to chase it but couldn’t catch up. Perla Rios, 17, stopped the ball with her foot and gently kicked it toward the young girl, who looked up at Rios with a wide smile. She shot her hands up, reaching for a hug to thank Rios, before running off with the ball.
“It’s really heartwarming,” said Rios, a junior at Harlandale High School who participates in a buddy program with special education students at her school. “They’re like any kids, but if you do something nice for them, they’re always going to do something nice to you. And if they see you’re sad, they come up to you and hug you.”
Promoting inclusion of special education students in schools was the goal of the inaugural Community Bike Day hosted at Harlandale Memorial Stadium by the Believe It Foundation, Kinetic Kids and the school district. Kids rotated among activities such as bike rodeos, soccer and bean bag tosses.