On Aug. 19, the University of Toledo football program hosted its fourth annual "Victory Day." Victory Day is an event for special needs students from Toledo-area schools at the Glass Bowl, where participants met UT football players, ran drills and heard their names announced over the loudspeaker as they scored a touchdown, just like the UT players do on game days.
Victory Day is a chance for special needs students to have their time to shine on the football field. Each student was paired up with a Rocket football player who served as their mentor for the event. The students wore UT team jerseys and were presented with medals as keepsakes to celebrate their victory. Toledo football players, cheerleaders, Rocky the Rocket and marching band members cheered on the Victory Day athletes throughout the event.
"It certainly is a fun day for our players and for the kids in the community," said UT football head coach Jason Candle. "We get to share a meaningful experience with these kids. Our players really love to do it. We're in the middle of preseason camp, and sometimes players can start to feel a little sorry for themselves — they're in pain or their legs hurt. But this is an eye-opening experience. Our players our blessed to have their opportunities. This is a great reminder of that and a great way to give something back to the community."
Aaron Segedi, a teacher and football coach from Trenton, Michigan, started Victory Day in 2010. Segedi is a cancer survivor whose life was saved thanks to a liver donation from his sister, Rhonda. Over time, the Victory Day event has been picked up by high schools and universities in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The first Victory Day for Toledo was in 2014.
"Just being with these kids and making their day a little bit better is awesome,” said fourth-year wide receiver Cody Thompson. “It's always good to give back and put a smile on someone's face."