Victory Day is a victory for special needs awareness and a celebration of fun

With football season soon approaching and fans gearing up to cheer on their favorite teams, it is a time of memories and celebration. But what about those individuals who are unable to play for reasons beyond their control, who may also have big dreams of running down the field and scoring that winning touchdown on game day?

One local event not only helps spread awareness about those with special needs but provides them with a full football gameday experience. Taking place at Memorial Stadium in Port Huron each year, Victory Day has the feel of any other big football gameday. Port Huron High School has partnered with local organizers and numerous sponsors such as St. Clair County Community Mental Health, Eastern Michigan Bank, MiMutual Mortgage, and Levi’s Link to host the event each year.

Victory Day was created in 2010 by Aaron Segedi, a former teacher from Trenton. As a cancer survivor, Segedi started Victory Day as a way to give back to the community for being given a second chance at life. Upon hearing the story on the evening news, Tracey Hopp, President of the St. Clair County Down Syndrome Support Group, was inspired to start a Victory Day of her own. Partnering with football coach Ryan Mullins, they set out to work. 

“Families and participants are treated to the full gameday experience, including food, such as hot dogs and snow cones,” Hopp says. “They get to throw the football around to warm up or practice cheers on the sidelines. From there, we line up on the 50-yard line and allow our participants to run, walk, or even be carried by another player to the end zone for the big touchdown.”

Victory Day organizer Tracey Hopp with participants.Now in its seventh year, Victory Day has become an event that brings in families from the local area and surrounding counties. The event is free of charge to participants and open to any individual between the ages of 5-26.

Participants are partnered with a student-athlete mentor either from the Port Huron High School football, volleyball, Thunderbirds, or the cheerleading team. After each touchdown, the announcer and the fans go wild and everyone goes home with a medal and the feeling of what it's like to be a gridiron champion for the day.

“The goal or purpose of Victory Day is to inspire not only the participants who may be dealing with a cognitive or physical impairment, but to also inspire the players, the cheerleaders, and everyone involved to be better people,” Hopp says.

Read more articles by Harold Powell.

Harold Powell is the Community Correspondent for The Keel and owner of Phantom Pen Media offering multimedia services to individuals and organizations across the Blue Water Area. He is a current board member for the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce and the most recent Chamber Choice recipient at the Eddy Awards. Harold is an avid volunteer for the YMCA of the Blue Water Area as well as Bridge Builders Counseling & Mentoring and in his spare time, enjoys spending time with his son, writing and listening to music, playing video games, and not folding laundry.