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About 30 special-education students in Europe are participating in the Winter Challenge, which began Wednesday and ends Friday at Hinterbrand Lodge.

The event allows special-needs children in grades three through 12 to work on functional living, socialization, motor skills and independence, according to Maureen Crouse, assistive technology consultant from the special-education department of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe.

“It’s really neat to see [the students] be able to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom,” said Margaret Murray, a special education teacher from Argonner Elementary School in Hanau, Germany. “They are interacting with one another outside the classroom and away from their parents, some of them for the first time …”

The students hold fund-raising events throughout the year to raise the $156 each needs for lodging and food costs at the event.

Activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, bobsledding and the gladiator race and relay. It ends Friday with an awards ceremony and dance, according to Crouse.

Although most of the events take place away from the Hinterbrand Lodge at a ski area in Berchtesgaden, the Hinterbrand staff plays an integral role in coordinating the outdoor activities.

With the lodge’s likely closing after the current school year, it is uncertain how the event will take shape next year.

“Maybe it will be in a different venue; we don’t know if we’ll have something like this. That’s still being negotiated,” Crouse said.

“It’s such a beneficial thing for the students,” Murray said. “We base the whole year on this with our fund-raising events. It would put a void in the class curriculum if it were to end.”

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