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Helping disabled earns boy trip to Disney
By KENT FISCHER
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 7, 2000
HUDSON -- Jake Qualtiere said he had learned a lot from playing alongside disabled children during the Special Olympics. Among other things, he said he's learned sportsmanship and compassion while assisting the athletes.
Organizers have invited 2,000 children ages 8 to 15 from around the globe to Disney World for the three-day celebration that begins Monday. Jake is one of eight from the Tampa Bay area -- and the only one from Pasco -- selected to participate.
The Hudson boy was nominated for the program by Val Lundin, a special education teacher at Cotee River Elementary who also coordinates the county's Special Olympics. Jake, who is not handicapped, volunteers to play alongside disabled children during the Special Olympic games. He passes the ball to the children and tries to keep the games moving along.
"I get to help them and encourage them," Jake said. "If we lose I say, "Don't worry, we'll get the next one.' "
At Disney World, a host of child advocates and celebrities will lead a symposium on how adults can inspire more children to get involved in their communities, while the children will march in a parade for world peace and will get a behind-the-scenes peek at how Disney operates its theme parks. Featured speakers include Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and actor Christopher Reeve.
Jake, of course, is excited about a three-day trip to Disney, but he also said he is looking forward to meeting children from other nations. The program's sponsors have sent Jake bags full of pins, hats, T-shirts and other trinkets that he can give to the children he'll meet.
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