KayDee Perry, assistant professor of health and human performance, runs a tight ship. She is the teacher-education preparation specialist in her department. With a primary focus on the physical education courses at Olivet College, she mentors countless students seeking to teach physical education when they graduate.
To see Perry work is like watching pure joy in action. She exudes verve.
In her “spare time,” Perry also coordinates fundraising and volunteer recruitment efforts on behalf of the Eaton County Special Olympics Field Day. A volunteer herself, she brings her extreme level of energy to the more than 200 athletes who participate in the annual event, which keeps her motivated.
“I feel blessed to have this opportunity and to be able to help fill a need for those who need it most,” said Perry. “We all have a story. In my interactions with individuals who have special needs, I am always left with a refreshed perspective.”
Perry’s master’s degree is in adapted physical education, so she has always been an advocate for persons with special needs. Adapted physical education (APE) is a Michigan Department of Education certification. Perry is trained to adapt or modify assessment and instruction to address the individual needs of students who have motor developmental delays for participation and growth in the physical education setting. APE instructors also participate in the Individualized Education Plan process and help students with special needs participate in the least restrictive environment during their physical education courses at the elementary and secondary levels.
Perry enjoys working with the Special Olympics not just because she has a relevant background; she sincerely wants to see the organization thrive and grow to include as many people with special needs as possible in Eaton County.
“As an educator, I seek to facilitate opportunities for people to meet their full potential,” she said. “Even with the long hours of preparation and work that goes into this event, I am richly blessed by the athletes in return.”
This year, Perry coordinated more than 100 student, faculty and staff volunteers from the college, as well as an additional 100 students and teachers from Olivet and Charlotte high schools.
“Last year, our football team showed up in their uniforms and the athletes participating in the field day wanted autographs and photos with them,” she added with a laugh.
Perry first connected with the Special Olympics on the recommendation of Maria Davis, Ph.D., provost and dean of the college. “I love KayDee’s endless enthusiasm, and the great commitment and passion she brings to her teaching and our students,” said Davis. “Combined, her energy and educational background made her uniquely qualified for this particular opportunity.
“I especially appreciate her willingness to always pitch in. She regularly asks, ‘What can I do to help?’ We are so fortunate to have her as a member of our Olivet College family,” added Davis.
Perry will continue serving on the Eaton County Special Olympics planning committee next year. Though she receives great personal satisfaction from her involvement, she also sees how it affects Olivet’s student volunteers.
“I feel this is a tremendous opportunity for our students to experience a change in perspective, learn another’s story and leave refreshed in the spirit,” added Perry. “Our students have profound gifts to share – time, energy, strength, encouragement, joy, hugs and cheers, to name a few. The field day seems like a perfect opportunity for them to express these gifts.”