Seventy children take the district-level competition by storm

With a mild stammer, Balasundar read out the motto ‘My life is God’s gift’. The 70 children took the oath with happiness, pride and innocence writ large on their faces.

These mentally challenged kids marched to the competition venue to try their hand at the district-level competition for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Jointly arranged by Bethshan Special School, The Gateway Hotel and Besst Trust, the event marked the 20th World Mental Health Day.

“Our mission is to deliver maximum physical and mental support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to adjust themselves to live in the society on their very own,” said A. Jeyapaul, coordinator, Bethshan School.

“We have been organising the competitions for the past 11 years,” he said. “We concentrate on events that help them in enhancing concentration and coordination skills and developing senses.”

Competitions were conducted at three levels – junior (8 to 11 years), senior (12 to 16 years) and master level (above 16 years). There were six game events that tested students’ skills and coordination levels – painting, colour ball matching, carom, material matching, snow ball and balloon balancing.

The balloon balancing competition targets the students’ sensory and nerve coordination, while colour ball matching gives them physical activity and challenges them to identify ball colours and match them with the baskets.

To the sounds of ‘Dingiri dingale….’ from the film Anbu Enge?, Bethshan School students presented a thematic dance on modern youth and their lifestyle. Around 70 students from nine special schools enjoyed themselves in the events and took home a load of complimentary gifts.

P. Mahendravel, Mhairman, Perrys Biscuits, inaugurated the event. “One should disseminate a message that mentally challenged children are special in God’s creation,” he said. “We should protect them.”

Said A. Premkumar, Manager, Human Resources, The Gateway Hotel, “We feel great to be part of the special programme that provides space to children who are eager to prove themselves even though they are not aware of their disability.”

The hotel has been sponsoring the event for more than a decade.

“There are many more activities that we take up as part of corporate social responsibility. And this is one of them,” said Devraj Singh, General Manager, The Gateway Hotel. “It all started with five students. Now the participants are 70. Soon, we hope this would become a national event.”

Addressing the gathering, V.M. Vijayasaravanan, Director of Counselling Services, Indian Red Cross Society, said that the Red Cross is ever ready to provide the necessary medical facilities to children who need them.

Said Gandhimathi, a teacher for 36 years with Anbagam special school, “These competitions not only give an opportunity for the children to show their inherent talent, it brings cheer to them and to us too.”

Flaunting her gifts and prizes and spirits intact even after a round of games, nine-year-old Alagu went for another round of fun and frolic.