Tom Savard, champion skier with disability and Rep Tony Hwang, OHS PTA host Diversity Day at Osborn Hill Elementary School
FAIRFIELD – Tom Savard and State Representative Tony Hwang were on hand at Osborn Hill Elementary School (OHS) in Fairfield as the school observed “Diversity Day” – a day dedicated to celebrating the differences that make all people interesting and unique, whether it is racial, cultural, or living with the challenges of a disability or handicap.
OHS 4th and 5th grade students gathered in the all-purpose room for an hour-long presentation sponsored by the OHS Parent Teacher Association (OHS PTA) and coordinated by Diversity Day Co-Chairs Karen Juthnas and Kelly Dunn.
Rep. Hwang introduced Savard, a National Champion in disabled skiing, who lost both of his legs at the age of twenty-two to a drunken driver. Savard showed the students how the mechanics of his prosthetic legs work, and reminded the young students not to refer to those with disabilities as “disabled persons” but as “persons with disabilities.”
Savard showed the apparatus known as a mono-ski, which allows him to ski competitively. He showed the students a number of medals he had won, as well as videos highlighting his competitive skiing. “Life isn’t over when you have a set-back,” said Savard. “We’ve all been knocked down. The important thing is to get back up again.”
Approximately 90 OHS third-graders rotated through six stations to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and to gain tolerance and acceptance of differences. The stations reflected: allergies, learning challenges, multi-cultural, sensory integration, motor skills and bullying. These stations were run by Osborn Hill parents and student volunteers from the 5th grade.
Co-Chair Karen Juthnas said, “It’s not just our students who love Diversity Day, it’s the whole Osborn Hill community. The students are so interested in learning about different ways people learn and grow. They are so curious and respectful. They gain a whole new level of understanding that different is beautiful.”
Co-Chair Kelly Dunn added, “We hope that this program will help create an atmosphere where every child can be free from bullying and feel respected in their home, school and community. And we hope this feeling continues with them as they grow into young adults.”
“I think this was a great event. The students benefited from Savard’s inspiring story of overcoming serious disability to lead the extraordinary life he has and how he has continued to teach and share his compelling story,” said Rep. Hwang. “I think it is important for students to not only recognize and be respectful and sensitive to those who have such disabilities, but to benefit from the stories of strength and survival that come from these courageous people.”