Roanoke Co., VA - Every year, for the past four years, Northside High School has teamed up with children from across the Roanoke Valley and Special Olympics for a very special cause. It's called the Special Olympics Little Feet Meet and it's designed to bring a community together through respect, inclusion and unity.
As the athletes make their way through the opening ceremonies, Michelle Tringali anxiously waits for her son Michael to make his way by the crowd for review.
"He calls it 'Little Feet Beat,' and that's because he's going to beat his feet until he wins," said Tringali.
It's a welcome break for the 5-year-old who suffers from severe ADHD and has been having trouble adjusting after his father's death three years ago.
"For all the other children that he goes to school with and all these different special needs... It's miraculous to see how all of them want to participate and cheer each other on," said Tringali.
Joining up with hundreds of other kids for the Special Olympics Little Feet Meet, Michael could be any one of these children.
Special needs kids in need of some extra love. They are mixed in with kids who don't have special needs and paired up with high school students looking to lend a hand in the games or in the stands.
That includes students like senior Tyler Wolfe, who has participated in this event for three years now.
"They can turn a bad day into a great day; make you smile just looking at them and they're having a lot of fun out here. I do it for the kids. Love it," he said.
Which is exactly what Tringali is hoping for - something that will help her son in the ways only happiness and camaraderie can. In a place where there are no losers just winners.
"The kids cheer everyone on. And that is what this is about: Seeing everybody (for) not just who they are as one but who we are together," said Tringali.
The Special Olympics Little Feet Meet is designed to work with kids ages 2 through 7 who are part of the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program. Typically, kids have to wait until they are eight to register with Special Olympics, but through this program, and partners like Roanoke County Schools, these kids are able to get involved at a younger age.