Trojan Buddies Kicks Off a New School Year Inclusive club starts back up this school year, looking to build on past success

Joey Owsley, Reporter

    A student gets their face painted at the Trojan Buddies event. The event featured many activities, such as a face painting station, a bounce house, corn hole, basketball, and more.

In early November, the Trojan Buddies hosted a modified version of their flagship event, Trojan Track and Field Day.

Trojan Buddies is a program at Derry Township School District that facilitates unique events for special needs students, allowing them to experience many opportunities that general education students take for granted. The backbone of the program are  the 145 student volunteers that pair with the disabled students, giving them friendship and a helping hand during the events.

Initially meant to be similar to last spring’s Track and Field Day, the weather didn’t cooperate for this year’s event. “We rescheduled the event twice,” said Trojan Buddies organizer and HHS teacher Erin Rosensteel. “Literally [three days before] we decided to change gears.”

Last year’s event was a massive success; held outdoors at the high school track, hundreds of students paused their school day to watch students with special needs compete in a number of track and field events. The club’s donors were a massive help, said Rosensteel, providing for an obstacle course, a DJ, and catered lunches for all the volunteers.

First and foremost in the Trojan Buddy program is the crucial interaction between the special needs athletes and their buddies. Rosensteel was incredibly happy with the results of the modified event. 

Caden Capitani (right) high fives his buddy Patrick Scheib. The camaraderie amongst the students is key to the Trojan Buddies program. (Broadcaster/Joey Owsley)

“I was impressed with how engaged the student volunteers, the buddies, were with some of the kids, even some of our kids with the most challenging and unique needs in this building,” Rosensteel said. “I was really impressed to see kids step up and not be afraid.”

Even though the initial plan didn’t work out perfectly this time, that did not dampen the mood of any participants. Ari Lilla, a Buddy who attended the event, was enthralled with the experience. Lilla is a new participant in the program, and she has quickly absorbed the message of the club. 

“I just want everyone to feel included and know that they have a friend, and they can actually hang out with other people and feel like they are being judged or anything, just because we have our own differences,” Lilla said.

Moving forward, Rosensteel hopes to continue growing the success of the Buddies program. Because of the change, Rosensteel said the idea was that “it was a meet your buddy event, so they will have the same athlete-buddy pairing in the spring. Rosensteel highlighted that opportunities to reconnect the students will be key between now and the next key event, April’s almighty Track and Field Day.

The Hershey Trojan mascot meets a student at the Trojan Buddies event. The mascot makes frequent appearances at events such as Monday’s Trojan Buddies event. (Broadcaster/Joey Owsley)