Dozens of July 4 parades are stepping off this weekend, but a special one took place Thursday morning in front of the Jefferson Early Childhood Center in Wheaton.
Accompanied by their teachers and dressed in patriotic colors, a group of 3- to 5-year-old students took two laps around the school, delighting the parents and friends who came to watch the annual celebration.
The children carried red, white and blue balloons. flags and pinwheels. Students from the Wheaton Warrenville South High School marching band performed in the background while smiling parents lined the sidewalk, snapping pictures.
Joanne Panopoulous, assistant superintendent for student services, said the 90 or so students who participated are part of Jefferson's extended school year program for kids with individualized education plans.
"It's determined by the (school) team if (students) need to have the summer programming, based on how they're progressing throughout the year," she said. "It really gives the opportunity for students to extend (the school year) and maintain the skills they've learned throughout the year ... (and) there's no interruption on their learning."
The school provides a preschool curriculum for children with and without disabilities who reside in the district.
"We have a lot of fun with it," Scott Radford, director of special services, said of the parade. "They like to march and the parents like to see their students. They make some arts and crafts and we have some students who decorated wheelchairs and walkers."
Elizabeth Pribaz came to the parade to see her 5-year-old son, Jack, who donned a patriotic hat and sat in a wheelchair covered in bright decorations.
This is her third year attending the parade, she said, and "they do a great job. It's very festive."
"I think he liked it," she said. "He was trying to sit up in his chair so I think he enjoyed it. He was smiling."