15th Year of Friendship Games Brings Smiles, Fulfillment


Mr. Crisafi

Eighth grader Kate Grande helps a special needs student from Limestone Creek Elementary run the 100-yard dash.

Happiness. Excitement. Disbelief. These are some of the emotions of the student who participate in The Friendship Games, the eighth-grade’s annual community service project which took place on January 25 this year. Its purpose is to give children with disabilities an opportunity to have a day of fun and games while getting some exercise and making new friends.

Friendship Games coordinators Mrs. Kathleen Devine and Mrs. Pamela Malone are the reason this event is possible.

“About 15 years ago, Mrs. Malone, who had children in [The Benjamin School], was working at [Watson B.] Duncan [Middle School] in a special needs classroom, and the county stopped funding this particular event for them, so she asked if Benjamin could help out, and we did,” said Devine, the Middle School’s English department chair.

There has been major growth for the event after 15 years. “The first year [of the Friendship Games,] we had 50 disabled students,” said Devine. “This year we had 600 [students].” The turnout this January was the largest to date, and the event brought the students to the Upper School campus under sunny skies with chilly temperatures.

Mr. Crisafi
Emilie Dubiel high fives a young competitor from Allamanda Elementary school after he completed the broad jump.

To begin the day, the eighth graders filled the bleachers by the Reback Family Track and cheered and blew bubbles as the participants carried a Friendship Games banner around the track. TBS eighth graders then helped participants in a number of events, from a 100-yard dash to the broad jump to a tennis ball throw. They also manned the various activity stations and helped award medals to the students.

“The [special needs] students practiced for these events since August in their classrooms,” said Devine. “For most of them, [The Friendship Games] was the only outside day of school they have.”

There were also a variety of activities at the Friendship Games in which the students could take part.

“While they were waiting for their track and field events, on the side of the track we had all these fun and game activities for them to do like face painting, jewelry making, wiffle-ball, bean bag tosses, [and] all kinds of [activities] like that,” said Devine.

Everyone was served pizza and cookies for lunch, and after a few more sprints on the track, the day came to a close. Before all was said and done, however, the eighth graders were rewarded for their hard work through the connections they made with the students they served.

“I enjoyed the Friendship Games because it was a way to go out of my comfort zone and give back [to others],” said eighth-grader Emilie Dubiel. “I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the smiles on the children’s faces throughout the day. I know that this day meant the world to them, and I was happy to be a part of it.”

Mr. Crisafi
Eighth graders Ryan Gikher, Brady Quinn, Sean Collins, and Marvel Allen hoist up one of the competitors after he completed the 100-yard dash. Henry Bennett and Carter Smith look on in the background.

Like Dubiel, eighth-grade student Andrew Moffitt delighted in the excitement he saw from the participants.

“I enjoyed the Friendship Games because I got to help people with disabilities,” Moffitt commented. “It was fun to see them happy because they do not often get to have fun [as] they did on [that] Friday.”

Students also learned life lessons from this experience. “It really opened my eyes to see that life is not perfect for everyone and that we should help people who are not as fortunate as we are,” said eighth-grade student Aadi Patel.

“This event impacted me because I know how privileged I am to have what I have,” said Moffitt. “These people with disabilities rarely get to have fun, and I think I feel more grateful for my life.”