The University of Olivet Students Lend a Hand for Area 8 Special Olympics

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A helper here, a helper there.

Since 2013, The University of Olivet students of KayDee Perry’s REC 400 class have volunteered with Area 8 Special Olympics at the State Winter Games in Traverse City.

This year was no different.

“Our students were responsible for making sure their athletes made it to each of their events and other activities each day,” said Perry, who is the assistant professor of health and human performance. “Ann Goudie, Area 8 Director, came to my REC 400 class and presented a variety of options for students to earn hours to fulfill the service learning component of our class,” Perry said. “The State Winter Games was one of the options. This is part of an ongoing effort for The University of Olivet to support Special Olympics. We have been actively supporting and working with Area 8 for their annual field day held in May, too.”

Each day students were assigned two to four athletes, and each day these students stayed with these athletes from Tuesday to Friday. Tasked with helping these participants were six students: Rachel Senopole, senior, Laura Bacso, junior, Curtis French, senior, Jaxon DeHaven, senior, Brendon Smith, senior and Jacob Cramer, senior.

The students and athletes competing took lodge in the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. Earlier this year, senior Nick Taylor, of Twin Lake, went skiing and worked with four snowboarding athletes at Mt. Brighton, Mich.

He talked about his experience.

“I went to Mt. Brighton to work with athletes who participated at the winter Special Olympic games in Traverse City this year,” Taylor said. “At first, I don’t think they were too sure about me, but by the end of the day they were talking to me like we had been friends for many years. The guys were all fairly good going down the hills, and would challenge me to hit the boxes and grind the rails with them. While I was there, I also met the No. 1 female Special Olympic downhill skier in Michigan. This was my first time volunteering with Area 8, and I’ve been involved with people with disabilities for more than 10 years. I’ve enjoyed every second of it. Area 8 works hand-in-hand with KayDee Perry, and being that she is my instructor, it was a very easy connection to make.”

After the event, thanks came in the multitudes, as Goudie raved about the participation of the The University of Olivet students.

“This is to let you know that your students who assisted at the State Winter Games were amazing,” she said in an email to Perry on Feb. 12. “They all did a wonderful job, and we would have them back in a heartbeat. I hope that they all found the experience to be rewarding and would consider volunteering with Special Olympics again in the future.”

Goudie is sending a gift package to the college. In it, there is a sweatshirt, medals and certificates for the students who assisted.


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