Special Olympics club adapting to changes this fall


Photo credit: Gabrielle Rodriguez

Normally, the Special Olympics club participates in many events, like hosting Unified Basketball or other activities with athletes. This semester, however, the Special Olympics club is finding different ways to interact with the athletes as events will be held virtually.

According to the president of the club, Piper Swearengin, Special Olympics club members will be participating in an event called Breakfast with Champions, where the local community comes together to listen to athletes’ stories and raise awareness and money for Special Olympics. This year the event will be virtual on Facebook Live, but there is a Zoom call planned with the athletes for after the event to congratulate them on all of their successes.

“This semester, I am feeling optimistic that the club will continue fulfilling our mission to support Special Olympics athletes and help lead the social justice movement of Special Olympics,” Piper Swearengin said.

Photo credit: Gabrielle Rodriguez

illustration by Gabrielle Rodriguez

Sally Wyma, a member of the club who is in charge of marketing, also discussed a letter writing campaign that is still in the works. The club hopes to send letters of encouragement to athletes during this difficult time. She also talked about keeping in contact with the local Special Olympics in San Antonio to support them in whatever they need.

Because campus is dedensified this fall with many students studying remotely, a lot of the events will be postponed until the spring semester. Wyma, like Swearengin, maintains a positive outlook on the semester.

“We are uncertain about a lot of our plans, but we are also hopeful that we will be able to encourage our community even if it looks a little different this semester,” Wyma said.

Several members of the club expressed uncertainty about what’s to come this fall. Many student organizations face similar concerns as student leaders deal with a shift to mostly virtual events. Typically, clubs are highly visible across campus, but in an online world, it can be hard to reach students.

One new way that groups are reaching students was the Virtual Student Involvement Fair. Rather than the traditional setup with tables and organizations wrapping around the Coates Esplanade during Welcome Week, Student Involvement invited all organizations to produce a video promoting their respective group. These videos were all placed on a website for students to find them in one place.

On August 18 through August 22, student organizations hosted live Zoom meetings that allowed students to learn more and interact with leaders of those organizations. There were six new people who attended the Special Olympics Zoom at the Student Involvement Fair, and a few who have had experience with Special Olympics in the past.

“I thought the Student Involvement Fair went really well. I was able to have personal conversations with each club and its officers. I learned a lot and really felt like I knew which clubs I wanted to take part in,” first-year Sophie Radi said. “I’m interested in joining Special Olympics because I want to bring joy to other people’s lives and help others have fun. I have a passion for helping others and I think this is a wonderful opportunity to make an impact. I love how flexible the schedules are for each club because it allows me to participate in several. Overall, the fair being virtual allowed me to attend almost every club meeting, meet new people from the comfort of my dorm and easily sign up for newsletters.”

Likewise, first-year Lauren Hurley had also had a positive experience with the Virtual Student Involvement Fair, and despite some technical difficulties logging onto some of the Zoom sessions, she is looking forward to enjoying events this fall.

“I was a part of Best Buddies at my high school, which works with the special needs students, and I wanted to continue doing that in college. I know it will be hard to have events with the Special Olympics Club this semester, but I am hoping to become involved as much as I can. It’s unfortunate that things have to be all virtual this year, but dwelling on the negative won’t make our situation any better. We should be looking at how we can adapt to the world right now to make things work as best as possible.”

Those interested in joining the Special Olympics Club or learning more can email Piper Swearengin at [email protected].