For the 22nd year, people who have helped students with disabilities in the Hilliard school district will be recognized at a special award ceremony.

For the 22nd year, people who have helped students with disabilities in the Hilliard school district will be recognized at a special award ceremony.

This year's Hilliard City Schools' Exceptional Persons'/ Exceptional Students' awards will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, in the Darby High School Performing Arts Center. Admission is free, and there will be a drawing at the end of the 90-minute event for prizes such as a diamond pendant, gift card and travel voucher.

Nancy Schott, director of pupil services/gifted services for the district, came up with the idea.

"It was something I thought was very necessary to acknowledge the efforts of many people," Schott said. "I know it's very trite to say it takes a village, but it does take more than just a special ed teacher and the parents to offer the kind of support that many of our students with disabilities need. There are many people who reach out in a variety of ways to meet the needs of these students."

There will be 20 to 22 winners in 14 categories, Schott said, selected by a committee from nomination applications. Outstanding exceptional students from each school will help present the awards, and Schott will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

"I read portions of the nominations for each of the award winners," she said. "In those nominations, there is a fabulous narrative about how this individual has touched the life of a student with a disability. The majority of the awards are adult awards, but they get the awards because of their impact on a child or group of children."

One of the honors is a Humanitarian award. One winner was the late Ralph Schleppi, former warehouse coordinator for the district.

"When children of any age needed a ramp built or a chair raised, he was always the one who quickly and happily went about that task," Schott said. "He was an expert carpenter who never said no to any request by a teacher or physical therapist."

Students are eligible for the Steve Bee award, named after a young man who suffered a diving accident that put him in a wheelchair.

"Despite the limitations in his mobility, he was very active, coming into the schools to touch the lives of other students with disabilities," Schott said. "He was very motivational and interacted with students with limitations of any kind.

"He passed away suddenly, and it's in his honor that we designed this award," she said. "We recognize a student who has shown courage and perseverance beyond the expected."

Schott said the ceremony has grown with the district.

"It's an incredibly uplifting event. You cannot help but have your heartstrings tugged upon when you see some of the children who come on stage or hear the letters they have written in support of a nominee. It's an incredible night."