Local Coach's Idea to Help Special Needs Children Goes National
Two bouts with cancer and a liver transplant could not stop Trenton teacher and coach Aaron Segedi from creating an event that builds character in high school athletes by giving special needs children a chance to play football.
When middle school teacher and varsity football coach Aaron Segedi, 36, hatched the idea for Victory Day in 2009, he had no idea he would be speaking about the event to schools across the country just three years later.
Having been hit with cancer for the second time that same year, Segedi didn’t know if he would have the time, resources or sheer will to organize an event like Victory Day.
Victory Day gives special needs children an opportunity to play football in a stadium, with cheerleaders, a scoreboard and announcers.
Before he could plan Victory Day, Segedi had to get treatment for his second round of cancer.
“I was a mess, but I’m still here,” Segedi said. “I’ve turned a lot of the negatives into positives.”
"It takes a lot to knock me down."
In 2005, Segedi faced two big health issues: he had bio duct cancer, and was in need of a liver transplant because of a lifelong illness. After administering chemotherapy and radiation in July 2005, doctors were able to eliminate the bio duct cancer, allowing Segedi to be placed on a list for a liver donation.
He was told he would likely wait about two years for a new liver. Doctors said he would die waiting. To save his life, Segedi’s sister, Rhonda, donated 70 percent of her liver in December 2005, but not before his brother Bryan had offered up his liver, as well.
Then, in 2009, Segedi found out that he had post transplant lymphoma disorder caused by anti-rejection medication he was taking for a liver transplant.
Segedi said his family and faith helped him get through his fights with cancer and his liver transplant.
“My wife is such and angel … no one thinks about caregivers,” Segedi said. “They think about these people that are going through it. My wife … she cried with me, she told me not to be a baby. She told me to toughen up. She was just there for me all the time.”
After beating cancer twice and surviving a liver transplant, Segedi was as motivated as ever to get back to his wife and two young children, his job as a middle school science and language arts teacher at Boyd W. Arthurs Middle School and his passion—football.
Victory Day: Building character
As the defensive coordinator for the Trenton High School varsity football team, the idea for Victory Day came to Segedi when he began trying to find ways to build character in his football players.
Victory Day is a day-long event where local special needs children get to play a game of football on Trenton High School’s varsity field, with all the same fan fair as an actual game.
Trenton football players pretend to play defense, while special needs boys grab hold of a football and run it into the end zone—breaking fake tackles all the way.
Trenton cheerleaders help special needs girls learn cheers. The girls cheer for the boys as they score touchdown after touchdown until the sun sinks behind the stadium.
Segedi considers Victory Day to be one of his greatest achievements.
To the parents and children who participate in the event, Victory Day is more than a game. It’s a life changing experience according to Segedi.
Before the first Victory Day in 2009, Segedi said he received a phone call from a father of an autistic boy who was participating in the game.
“He said, ‘I just wanted to tell you I have butterflies in my stomach that my autistic son in going to play football on Saturday afternoon,’” Segedi said. “Now how cool is that.”
In 2011, former University of Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr attended Victory Day. He stayed so long he missed his first University of Michigan football game in years. He has already agreed to attend Victory Day again this September.
Segedi is currently seeking sponsorship for Victory Day by corporate powerhouses Nike and Gatorade.
Segedi recently returned from a conference in Cincinnati, OH, where he spoke about Victory Day to schools across the country. Schools in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio have adopted Segedi’s idea and plan to have a Victory Day of their own next fall, according to Segedi.
Three years after his last bout with cancer, Segedi is healthy and in fighting shape. He gets routine tests to make sure the cancer is gone for good and has absolutely no intention to stop teaching, coaching football or planning and organizing Victory Day.
“I’m very happy where I’m at,” Segedi said. “I’d have to be on my deathbed. It takes a lot to knock me down.”
Victory Day 2012 is set for 10:30 a.m. September 15 at Trenton High School.
Since being published, this story was picked up and posted to the Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day.
To donate time or money to Victory Day or to become a sponsor call Aaron Segedi 734-552-4654 or email him at email@example.com.