Special Olympics features Gannon volunteers

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Alpha Sigma Alpha was one of the campus organizations who volunteered for the Special Olympics.

The 23rd Erie County Special Olympics Basketball Tournament was a hit with the help of Gannon University students.

The practices were run at Harding Elementary School, and the tournament took place at Girard High School on March 28.

The Special Olympics started officially in 1968 to give children with intelluctual disabilities a chance to compete.  The initial idea was pioneered by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Students from the Gannon community volunteered to be coaches, referees, statisticians and cheerleaders for the players out on the court.

There were nine practice sessions before the big tournament day, where the volunteers would teach the participants basic basketball skills such as dribbling and shooting, always warming them up with a quick stretch and jog around the gym.

Ashley Sarlo, a junior nursing major, said she found the Olympics moving.

“Seeing them excited to start playing and try to improve their skills really was inspiring,” Sarlo said.

“Once we got to the tournament you saw everyone from the community involved in the Special Olympics come together.”

Greek life was heavily involved in this volunteer effort, with Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority women and the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity man leading the pack, helping in the training sessions as well as at the event itself.

Lauren Vajda, a junior nursing major and the philantrophy chair of Alpha Sigma Alpha, said the Special Olympics is rewarding and impacts her chapter in many ways.

“We watch the players grow each year,” Vajda said.

“We never leave them without a big smile on our face. The players always manage to turn your day around.”

ELLISE CHASE
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