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UCF to Hold Free Outdoor Event for Children with Disabilities on April 19

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UPDATE: "The event was a huge success," reported faculty advisor Jennifer Tucker. "We had about 30 children, and the students did a phenomenal job. I'm already receiving inquiries about next year's event."

By Karen Guin

UCF's physical therapy program will host a free event to encourage physical activity in children with a developmental disability. The program will sponsor "Let's Ignite! Building Better Bodies" on April 19, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at UCF's Memory Mall, across from the CFE Arena.

Children must be 5 to 18 years old and accompanied by a parent or caregiver to participate. The children will engage in activities with UCF physical therapy students; UCF's mascot, Knightro; members of Orlando City Soccer and other volunteers.

"Children with special needs aren't always encouraged to exercise for fear they'll hurt themselves," said Jennifer Tucker, a member of the physical therapy faculty and board-certified pediatric clinical specialist. "We want to give these children an opportunity to explore physical fitness in a really fun environment."

Playing along with the children and volunteers will be UCF students working toward a doctorate in physical therapy. Tucker will be the faculty advisor to the students during the event.

"Many sports and physical activities can be modified for children with special needs," Tucker added. "This will be a great opportunity for parents, caregivers and our students to learn how to modify activities so they're appropriate for the child and still improve fitness."

"Let's Ignite! Building Better Bodies" will begin with warm-up activities with Knightro, followed by activities that promote gross motor skills such as throwing, kicking, jumping and running. They will include soccer-themed activities, relay races and corn-bag tossing games.

The event will conclude with a ceremony held by Medals4Mettle, a nonprofit organization that awards metals donated by athletes to children and adults with disabilities. Each child who participates will receive a medal attached to a Medals4Mettle ribbon.

"We're excited to offer this opportunity for children with disabilities," Tucker said. "We hope to make it an annual event as a way to give back to the community."

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