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Father and son provide donation to support physical education for children with special needs

The Friday Adapted Physical Education Program (APE), a CPASS initiative which provides weekly developmentally appropriate physical activity programming for more than 80 school-aged children with disabilities from Monongalia County Public Schools, received a generous donation from Dustin and Damon Casseday in April.

Damon Casseday, WVU Recreation, Parks and Tourism student, and his son, Dustin, have always had a close bond. Until the age of five, Dustin was nonverbal. It wasn’t until he started in the “Son-Rise” program, designed to help Monongalia County parents encourage their children to learn, that Damon saw progress as his son exploded with excitement to learn.

“I have spent almost all my free time with him doing things and activities that teach him. He is like a little sponge and that's why we share a tight bond. It’s indescribable,” Casseday said.

This past semester, Casseday was enrolled in a Recreation Services for Special Populations course taught by Dr. Andrea Taliaferro, associate professor, joint appointment in CPASS and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. As a part of this course, Casseday served as an assistant instructor in the Friday APE Program. Dustin joined the program as a participant.  

“My son received great instruction from the students who worked with him. I believe the children receive a much-needed break from school but, in a sense, are learning as they are having fun,” Casseday said.

“Autism awareness and acceptance is my focus, but every person has an ability that is far more precious and valuable than a disability,” said Casseday.

“The donation that Damon and Dustin have graciously made to the Friday APE Program will enable us to purchase and update equipment so that we can continue to provide high quality, developmentally appropriate physical activity to our participants,” Taliaferro said.

“The program provides a hands-on practicum experience for WVU Physical Education Teacher Education and Athletic Coaching Education students,” she added. Taliaferro says that the mission of the Friday Program is to encourage, nurture and support participation in physical education activities in a positive learning environment.

The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the independent, nonprofit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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