High school and middle school students from six school districts throughout Southeast Texas were treated to a Mardi Gras celebration unlike any other. On Friday, Bridge City High School was the site of the first ever Mardi Gras party for nearly 250 special need students with intellectual disabilities.

The event was sponsored by the Project UNIFY  ‘Meet in the Middle’ program which is an affiliate of Special Olympics Texas.  According to Luanne Coward, program facilitator at BCHS, “the emphasis was to promote acceptance and inclusion between students with and without intellectual disabilities. Our goal is to set up a fun, interactive environment so that our students can team up to promote acceptance, friendship, and fitness.”

The Mardi Gras theme was highlighted with colorful decor, beads and masks. Pizzas were served with snacks and traditional King Cakes. A DJ provided music for dancing in the BCHS gym. There was also face painting and a manicure booth.

Students were bussed in from as far away as Newton attended the Mardi Gras even in Bridge City. Other schools attending where Orangefield, Little Cypress-Mauriceville, Kirbyville and Evadale.

“Our Meet In The Middle club members wanted to interact with other MiM schools in a fun and exciting way,” said Coward. “This was their way to become better aquainted with one another and to form lasting friendships.”

Coward said that the benefits of participation in MiM include character development, moral intelligence, leadership and a positive impact on school culture including bullying prevention.

For the students and teachers participating in the Mardi Gras celebration the experience was memorable and rewarding. “It was an awesome learning experience for others to see how well students with intellectual disabilities know how to have a great time with dancing and interacting with other students. The smiles on the participants, teachers and volunteers were huge.”

According to Coward BCISD will host the Mardi Gras even again next year.

Other MiM schools will host additional events during the school year. They include the Orangefield Life Skills Prom, Newton will host the 2nd Annual Track and Field event, and Kirbyville will be hosting two fun filled days, the 2014 Field Day and 2014 Special Olympics Day. Other events are also planned.

“Bridge City MiM students will be attending the Orangefield Life Skills Prom in April, the Spring Fling Dance hosted by Region V and the Kirbyville Special Olympics Day in May, “ Coward said, “ We are in the process of planning our end-of-year MiM outing.”

“We have a saying,” Coward said, “Every child is a different kind of flower and all together they make this world a beautiful garden.”