James Madison University

Psychology Peer Advisors Help Make JMU’s Special Olympics Event a Success

By: Psychology Peer Advising

PHOTO: JMU students and athletesOn Saturday, October 8, 2011, sixty Special Olympic athletes from all across the state of Virginia were welcomed to JMU for the 5th annual Day with the Dukes. Day with the Dukes was founded by a former Psychology Peer Advisor, and tennis player, Jesse Tarr, in 2007 as a way for JMU students and Special Olympians to come together for a day of athletic-based activities. Jesse says that he was looking for ways to “give back,” and he thought that sponsoring a local Special Olympics event would be a very special way to accomplish that.

During the event, each Special Olympic athlete (wearing white shirts) was paired with a Psychology Peer Advisor “buddy” (wearing red shirts) for the day. A special bond was created between buddies as they got to know more about each other throughout the day, while engaging in various activities with JMU athletes (wearing purple shirts).. Buddies were right beside the special Olympians throughout all of the events to offer support during and after participating in activities and exercises.

PHOTO: JMU Students and athletesThe events began at the new Bridgeforth Stadium. JMU athletes led various drills and interactive opportunities over the course of the day. The JMU football team, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and cheerleading were all participants in this year’s Day with the Dukes. Each team led drills including stretching and warm up exercises, shooting hoops, kicking field goals, and dribbling soccer balls with the athletes, in addition to playing their sports along with the Special Olympians.

The hands on athletic portion came to a close with a tailgate lunch on the Godwin field where JMU cheerleaders organized face painting. During the lunch, the buddies created a special award for each special Olympian that highlighted their greatest strengths throughout the day. Some examples include best attitude, best kicker, fastest runner, and most friendly. The Olympians seemed to enjoy receiving their awards and felt a great sense of pride for being individually recognized. Everyone left the tailgate lunch with a big smile on their face and was even more excited to see what the rest of their day at JMU would bring.

The day ended with participants watching the Dukes play the Maine Black Bears at Bridgeforth stadium.

With the help of JMU athletics, Virginia Special Olympics and buddy volunteers who included Psycology Peer Advisors, members of Phi Sigma Pi and Alethea Church, this was another unforgettable event for Special Olympians and their families.  A sixth event is now being planned and everyone is looking forward to doing this all again next year!