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Olivet College recently hosted the Special Olympics Calhoun County Track and Field Day, welcoming nearly 250 Olympians from 15 schools to campus. The athletes competed in a series of events by age group, including shot put and the long jump, supported by friends, family, mentors, teachers and Olivet College volunteers.

While the event was based on competition, the values of inclusion and diversity stole the gold medal.

“As President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., is often quoted, ‘Olivet College prides itself on who we include, not who we exclude.’ I feel that making our campus community more intentional about including people with disabilities and unique needs is important,” said KayDee Perry, assistant professor of health and human performance and organizer of the Calhoun County Track and Field Day. “In all of my work with Special Olympics, I have always felt I have gotten more than I could ever give. As a campus community, we need to mindfully pursue opportunities to demonstrate that we are truly welcoming to all, and this event is an example of that work.

“Since my first year at Olivet College, I have worked with organizing volunteers for the Area 8 Office, which serves Eaton and Ingham counties. This includes helping our students secure service learning opportunities with the State Summer and Winter Olympic Games and their Field Day. This year, I was ecstatic to pursue the opportunity for OC to host an event for Area 16 Special Olympics!”

Professor Perry continued by acknowledging the incredible team of volunteers and organizers that helped execute the event, especially Matt Bennett of the Olivet College physical plant. She noted that over 100 volunteers from the OC community assisted with the event.

“I thought the College could provide a user-friendly facility for the Special Olympics,” Bennett said. “Our Compact emphasizes social responsibility and inclusion, and that doesn’t just qualify for race, religion or sexual orientation. It also includes mental and physical abilities as well. I saw an opportunity to help the special needs community. The event was a blast to say the least!”

One event volunteer, rising senior Nicole Deweyert, jumped at the chance to serve as an event organizer and mentor to athletes. She’s an accomplished golfer and exercise science major with a goal of becoming a college professor. Nicole’s volunteer experience helped her prepare for a career mentoring students and hone her management and organizational skills.

“I chose to be a part of the Special Olympics Track and Field Day at Olivet because it is one of my passions,” Nicole said. “Being able to watch these athletes compete and see that they are full of happiness brings joy to everyone around them. I really enjoyed cheering these athletes on; it was the highlight of my junior year. My favorite part of the entire event was watching these athletes compete at a high level. I was so impressed by the competitive atmosphere!

“I would encourage people to volunteer with the Special Olympics because it teaches us how amazing people truly are and it gives you an incredible feeling from the moment the event starts. These athletes inspire people every day and are just as able and talented as anyone else. Never underestimate anyone, because we as humans are capable of anything, and these athletes proved that.”

“It was absolutely wonderful to see all the kids smiling; it grounds you,” Bennett added. “We think we have problems with material things, but when you have a chance to see these individuals, it changes your mindset. Win, lose or draw, they’re happy to be there and participate. It’s a more supportive atmosphere than a competitive atmosphere. The athletes cheer each other on and are happy to just be there.”

Learn more about Olivet College’s inclusive and diverse campus by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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