Football stars, cheerleaders bond with Lakeview students

Football stars, cheerleaders bond with Lakeview students


Football stars, cheerleaders bond with Lakeview students


EDISON Kelly Hayes, who was considering becoming a special education teacher, seemed more certain about her career path following the Middlesex County All-Star team’s visit to the Lakeview School for a Snapple Bowl XX pep rally.

“To be honest, when I first walked in I was very nervous,” said Hayes, one of more than 80 recently graduated high school cheerleaders and players who worked inside classrooms with about 200 Lakeview students on Monday before all gathered in the multipurpose room for a raucous pep rally.

“After being here working with Rafi (a popular Lakeview student) I just loved it. I was considering going into special education at college and this kind of made me want to pursue it a little more. I feel I connected with him. He was a fun kid to hang out with.”

Rafi, sporting a yellow T-shirt bearing the message “I am Lakeview Proud,” and his schoolmates won the hearts of their visitors, who will play Thursday night’s game against the Union County All-Stars at Kean University as a fundraiser.

All proceeds from the event, which has generated more than $415,000 since its inception, benefit the Lakeview School and Children’s Specialized Hospital.

The Snapple Bowl raised a single-game record $47,000 last year. Marcus Borden, the game’s founder and director, wants to raise at least $50,000 this summer.

Part of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities, the Lakeview School, located in a picturesque section of Roosevelt Park, is one of the nation’s largest day programs for children with multiple disabilities.

The 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility has spacious suites for occupational, physical and speech therapy. The school boasts the most extensive clinical staff of any private or public school in the state, providing consultant medical and psychological services, specialized nursing services, social services and medical screenings.

“When I first got here I didn’t know what to expect,” Josue Romero, a defensive lineman from Carteret, said. “I felt almost overwhelmed. But as the day went on I just got to realize they are kids like us really. They are smart like us, they think like us. They just need a little extra help.”

Christa Bachman, supervisor of education at Lakeview, said the Snapple Bowl pep rally, for which preparations are made days in advance, is one of NJID’s biggest annual events.

“It’s a huge day for us,” she said. “They are gearing up all week. They are making noisemakers, they are working on their cheers – augmentative cheers, vocal cheers – making posters and decorating the gym.

“It’s important for our students to have their general (education) peers here. It makes them feel so special that they are here. It makes them feel celebrated and it means the world to them. It makes our students feel extraordinary.”

The Lakeview students, in turn, had a similar impact on the Snapple Bowl players and cheerleaders.

“When I first came here I was really nervous because I have never done anything like this before,” said Nicolette Schlachter of Bishop Ahr. “But (Rafi) just made me feel really comfortable. He’s just so happy. I didn’t’ think people like this would be happy.”

Schlachter, unlike Hayes, never considered a career in special education, but said Monday’s visit may lead her down that path.

“I actually really liked (the experience) and I would consider doing something like this when I’m older. I would never have thought in a million years that I would want to do this but after seeing (Rafi) I think he’s my reason I would want to help people like that.”

Players and cheerleaders broke into eight groups of about 10 to assist students in making posters that read “Go Middlesex” and “Middlesex Rocks.” They worked one-on-one with students in routine classroom activities such as calendar, weather, days of the week and attendance and providing hand-over-hand assistance for games in gym. Snapple Bowl participants sang songs, played bingo and danced with students.

Colonia quarterback Trent Barneys broke the ice in his classroom, making two girls giggle with some fancy dance moves to the Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Barneys’ act concluded with him playfully spinning a smiling student around in her wheelchair, drawing laughter and tears from onlookers.

“They are like deer in headlights when they first come in,” Bachman observed of the players and cheerleaders. “But I say that will all the love in my heart, because God bless them for being here and thinking outside the box and wanting to do this. But it’s the fear of the unknown.”

After meeting for lunch in the cafeteria – which, along with the multipurpose room, was built with Snapple Bowl funds – game participants headed to the multipurpose room for an energetic pep rally.

Players and cheerleaders were introduced as students waved yellow and blue pom poms, reflecting Lakeview’s school colors. The Middlesex County cheerleaders performed on a stage. Two school staff members, dressed as Mike and Sully, performed a bit with Barneys and former Bishop Ahr wide receiver Michael Jensen, who tried to outdo the Monsters Inc. characters with scary roars. The roar of laughter from students, ironically, was much louder.

“Being with all the kids, seeing all the big smiles on their faces, made me happy to be there,” said Abdel Ragab, a defensive lineman from Edison.


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