The Old Bridge Education Association (OBEA) and the Special Education Parent Teachers Association (SEPTA) of Old Bridge joined together on June 9th for a Family Fun Day at Lombardi Field in Old Bridge.  The day provided an afternoon of activities and entertainment for the students and families of Old Bridge’s special education community. OBEA paraprofessionals and teachers were on-site to welcome the students and to help them through many of the attractions.

Pride Chair and OBEA Unit Director for Paraprofessionals, Nancy Cogland, discussed the importance of this annual event for the Old Bridge special needs students and their families.

“This is an event where we can all come together to provide our children an opportunity to engage, to socialize, and to play,” Cogland said.

SEPTA is a non-profit organization committed to bringing parents and guardians current and vital information on issues that face children with special needs and their families. SEPTA president, Allison Vass, commented that many parents work tirelessly for their child while balancing their work and family responsibilities.

“When parents can come to events like this, they can talk and network with one another. We all share in the fun seeing our children riding the train, enjoying the inflatables, and playing games,” Vass said.

SEPTA member, Stefanie Babits, acknowledged the impact of the paraprofessionals, in particular, on students’ educational programs.

“Our paras really are valued members of the children’s IEP teams. We are in constant contact with one another, whether it’s about successes or struggles,” Babits said.

Vass commented on the amazing relationship between the parents and the educators.

“We couldn’t survive without them,” she said. “Our paras and teachers are our life-line.  We have such an amazing relationship,” Vass stated. “It’s great to have an event where the parents, paras, teachers, administrators, Board members, and even town council members, can come together for our children.”

Old Bridge Paraprofessionals and Special Education Parents: One Family

Last year, OBEA applied for an NJEA PRIDE grant for the inflatables, the games, and the train. Cogland discussed the impact of the grant.

“The grant pays back ten-fold,” Cogland stated. “Beyond helping to provide a wonderful day for our children, it helps us establish a strong partnership with our parents and the community that will allow all of us to advocate for the best interest of our special education program.”

Babits discussed how the event provides a safe environment for the children to be themselves.

“These children are some of the hardest working kids. Here, they get to take a break from their therapies, come outside, and have the freedom to play,” Babits said. “They are developing confidence in their social skills. Each child is a winner here.”

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