March is National Disabilities Awareness Month but the non-profit ACCEL, Arizona Centers for Comprehensive Education and Life Skills, located in the Metrocenter area works all year to help students with special needs reach their highest potential.
Last week, they got to celebrate on the fields that the Arizona Diamondbacks helped the center build and it's making a big difference.
It was a beautiful day to be outside -- Clear and sunny skies with just the right temperature be out, not too hot; not too cold.
“You got that right, buddy,” said Justin, one of the students at ACCEL. “I liked playing baseball.”
The center asked us not to use the students' last names.
The day was called Diamondbacks Day. About 200 students between the ages of 5 and 22 with different types of disabilities -- some on the autism spectrum, others with physical disabilities -- took part in outdoor activities from playing on the baseball diamond to running through foam noodles. There were even some obstacle courses thrown in.
At first glance it would’ve looked like all fun and games but each game had a purpose.
“Each game we designed works on gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Students who are building their communication skills have an opportunity to work on expressive and receptive language,” said Therapy Coordinator at ACCEL Laura Montgomery. “Our goal is to always help our students achieve the highest level of independence they are able to, so that when they leave us they are able to live the fullest life that they are able.”
Ryan is a perfect example of that achievement. Thanks to the skills he's learned at ACCEL he's a volunteer with the HALO Animal Rescue.
“I like walking with the cats and dogs," he said. "Some of them look vicious and scary but they're very soft and loving."
It’s a win-win for the community. Students get to learn the skills to help make the community a better place.
To learn more about ACCEL, visit accel.org.