By Chris Kieffer
VERONA – A Lee County special education teacher won a contest on the national “Kidd Kraddick in the Morning” radio show that will allow her to start a nonprofit to help wheelchair-bound students.
Cat Hardy’s organization will help make costumes for the students’ wheelchairs with the idea of helping them to better communicate with peers. The idea is that the costumes serve as an ice breaker to make others more likely to approach and converse with the students.
She had entered the radio show’s “I Have a Dream” contest. On Monday morning, she received a phone call telling her she was among its winners. The show’s staff will help her create her nonprofit charity and will give her a $1,000 prize to start it.
The radio show also recorded an interview with Hardy that was scheduled to air at 7:30 a.m. today, heard locally on KZ-103 (103.9 FM).
Hardy teaches nonmobile and nonverbal special education students from the Lee County and Tupelo school districts. Her class is based at Verona school.
For several years, she has created costumes for those students for Halloween, but she had to pay for most of her materials with her own money. She said this will help her get better materials and to help more children. She estimates she has spent about $200 to $300 on the project each year.
“I knew the kids would get so much better costumes than the duct tape and cardboard we put together for them,” she said. “Also, it would not just be my students, but I now have the ability to help so many more kids.”
The organization will be called “Erase the Space,” a name created by one of Hardy’s students.
“He said when he is in his wheelchair, people are standoffish and keep the space between them, but when he wears a costume, people interact more with him and aren’t afraid to talk to him,” she said.