SPEAK hosting Abilities Awareness Week in Voorhees April 19–26 with 5K community event on April 25

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Special needs Parents, Educators And Kids of Voorhees (SPEAK) is inviting the community to participate in what the group calls a “a week-long celebration of abilities,” as it once again brings Abilities Awareness Week to Voorhees Township from April 19–26.

Throughout the week, SPEAK will be promoting activities and programs throughout the area, as well as local schools, that help bolster the acceptance and understanding of those with disabilities and spotlight the everyday challenges those who are disabled face.

To kick-off Abilities Awareness Week, SPEAK, in conjunction with the Eastern Regional High School Success Club, will be hosting a free bingo event for everyone in the community older than an eighth-grade level on April 17 at the Eastern cafeteria.

SPEAK President Elena Luzi said the event is a way to bring together children with varying levels of ability who will soon be transitioning out of the Voorhees School District and into Eastern Regional High School.

“We feel like we’re doing it not just to promote awareness, but acceptance,” Luzi said.

The event will take place from 6:30–8:30 p.m. and those interested can RSVP to bingo@speaksj.org.

Then, as Abilities Awareness Week gets underway, schools in the district will see special programing related to those with disabilities.

A poster contest will be held through district schools, with this year’s theme being “learning through differences.”

Luzi said the poster contests were always a good way to discover how typical children in the district may view their atypical peers.

In addition to the contest, some students at Voorhees Middle School will participate in exhibitions from Voorhees Pediatric that showcase what it can be like to be disabled and the challenges that can arise.

An Apple distinguished educator will also be on hand for presentations related to how atypical individuals can use technology.

As in years past, Abilities Awareness Week will culminate with SPEAK’s annual All Abilities 5K Run and One Mile Run/Walk/Wheel at Eastern on April 25 from 7:30 a.m. to noon, with a 9 a.m. Run/Walk/Wheel start time.

The All Abilities 5K, both for dedicated and casual runners, and also open to families, gives atypical and typical children alike the chance to participate in an outdoor community activity while also helping raise money for SPEAK’s general mission.

Online registration for the All Abilities 5K will be open until April 21 at runsignup.com/Race/ NJ/Voorhees/Speak5K.

The 5K Run and One Mile Run/Walk/Wheel event will each start at 9 a.m., with the 5K run having a $25 race fee, and the One Mile Run/Walk/Wheel having a $15 race fee, and $2.50 sign-up fee for each.

“It’s a time where we can all come together for an event,” Luzi said. “It’s really just intended to be a fun, lighthearted, everyone come together event.”

Outside of Abilities Awareness Week, SPEAK works through the year to integrate the community through initiatives such as after-school sports programs, educational presentations, helping fund technology projects for school resource rooms, helping fund teacher and administrator education and training programs, holding family bowling events and hosting the annual SPEAK Arts creative arts, music and drama program.

Most recently, the Voorhees Township Board of Education used its March meeting to honor Voorhees Middle School students Morgan Tiernan and Taylor Ruiz for a video project they created about SPEAK, and at the February BOE meeting, SPEAK donated a check to the district for an Apple TV and LCD TV to be used in a resource classroom at VMS.