Yankee Doodle spirit filled Warrenville's Bower Elementary School Tuesday as students in the district's Extended School Year program kicked off their Independence Day celebration a few days early.
More than 100 students with significant physical or cognitive needs, their families and teachers and district officials donned silly red, white and blue hats, waved handmade signs and decked out their strollers and wheelchairs in red, white and blue streamers as they participated in the school's annual Fourth of July parade around the school.
"This truly is one of our most fun and exciting events of the year," said Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 Superintendent Brian Harris. "This is where the spirit is."
Assistant Superintendent Joanne Panopolous said the annual event, where students lead the Pledge of Allegiance, tell some patriotic jokes and parade around the school, has become so popular because students are encouraged to interact with their peers in an event that is "all theirs."
Seventh-grader Anna Herpolsheimer, a 12-year-old student at Hubble Middle School, is unable to speak but her mother Sheila said she "loves to hold and the flag" and the "patriotic music" that accompanies the parade. Together, they've never missed a parade since Anna was a student at Bower.
"It's a great parade that allows all of us to celebrate Independence Day in a way that is more meaningful to the children," Sheila Herpolsheimer said. "At this parade, there's no question the kids are the stars of the show."