UNL track and field hosts final day of minicamp for special needs kids

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – On Wednesday, LPS students from kindergarten through fifth grade completed the UNL Track and Field Everybody Play minicamp at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

The four-week program gives students with disabilities the chance to be on a team and learn the sport alongside players from the Nebraska track and field team.

Nebraska junior Jenna Rogers came up with the idea a year ago, inspired by her two cousins who have autism.

She’s also spent time around other kids with special needs.

“I thought, ‘This is something I’m so involved in when I was in middle school and high school.’ And I’m like, ‘I need to bring it to Nebraska when I’m in college,’” Rogers said.

She brought the idea to the life skills and enrichment department at UNL, and it grew from there.

Cindy Brunken of Lincoln Public Schools said the kids who participated in the minicamp were selected by their schools.

She said the event gives kids a chance to try out a sport they may have never played before.

“We had a couple of kids who had never tried it,” Brunken said. “And they have some natural talent, and they’ve just really taken off. And now their parents are going to enroll them in some other events similar to this. And so it’s just open some new doors for them.”

Rogers, a speech pathology major, said working with students with special needs reinforces her life’s commitment to these types of students.

“I think that everyone should interact with people with special needs because they’re just so special and so genuine,” she said.

Participants got the chance to learn events like high jump, long jump, hurdles, javelin and shot put.

At the end of the day, the kids ran a relay race before being awarded certificates.

Rogers hopes to continue making positive impacts on kids for years to come.

“It’s so cool,” she said. “And especially doing something that I love, which is track and field, and then seeing how happy it makes them. I mean, it’s just ideal.”

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