PITTSBURG —  Education, wellness and fun were spun into a carnival-themed event on Friday at Pittsburg State University.
Students in the Therapeutic Recreation program at PSU hosted TR-Iffic Day of Play at the Student Recreation Center.
The event was for special education students from across the Pittsburg School District and surrounding schools, and for special needs populations served by organizations such as Mosaic and New Hope. The event brought 130 participants age six to 80.
“Our students started thinking about how we could educate the community and spread awareness about therapeutic recreation, because it's an area that’s not very well known but it makes a really, really big impact,” said Laura Covert-Miller, an associate professor in the Health, Human Performance, and Recreation Department in a release.  
The event allowed her students to gain hands-on experience while giving back to the community. Students planned all activities, contacted volunteers, found donations, and implemented the event.
For one Pittsburg State University student, Madison Handy, the TR-Iffic Day of Play holds a special place in her heart. As a daughter of an elementary principal, Handy spent time with special education students as a peer — it was experiences such as this which led her to study therapeutic recreation and work in the field with individuals with disabilities, she said.
“I want to do this my entire life,” she said. “I absolutely love to help people.”  
For the event, Handy put together a matching game using multi-colored stickers and little plastic rubber ducks.
The event happened to land on 10-year-old Cody Bushong’s birthday. He is a student from the SEK Learning Center and he played the “capture the fish” game and had his face painted with his classmate Kelsie Francis, which they said were their favorite activities at the event.
“I think it is an incredible opportunity for individuals with disabilities,” Dawn Kerr, SEK Learning Center Elementary special education teacher said. “They absolutely love it.”
Kerr said events like the TR-Iffic Day of Play allow for her students to socialize outside the classroom setting.
“Here, they are learning how to deal with different situations than in the classroom,” she said about the environment of the event. “It’s an important opportunity for these guys — but most of all it’s fun.”
A visitor from Joplin, Missouri, Laz Sanders went from activity to activity, from the bean bag toss to matching rubber ducks. Sanders’ direct support staff, Ashley Cheney of Preferred Family Healthcare, said the event was “amazing.” Not only are participants playing games and having a good time, but the “events help them understand more that they are accepted into the community,” Cheney said.  
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.