The 3rd annual Special Olympics Fun Day, organised by the Jason Roberts Foundation and the Grenada Down Syndrome Association (GDSA), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, has been deemed a great success as organisers are happy with the turnout at the event, which caters to special needs students in Grenada.
Tonya Hyacinth, a Speech and Language Pathologist at the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development and a Co-Director at GDSA, indicated the kind of special needs children participating in the event, “Well of course we have Down Syndrome students; we have hearing impaired students; visually impaired; some children have cerebral palsy; cognitive impairments are also here.”
Now in its 3rd year as a joint endeavor by the 3 main stakeholders involved, the event was again held at the St George’s University playing field, at its True Blue Campus in St George, on Friday, 3 November 2017. The event catered for approximately 200 students this year.
Dr Beverly Nelson, Co-Director at the GDSA, said, “The Down Syndrome Association is only 3 years old and we are very proud of the fact that we’ve made these strides to put together an event like this.”
This year, the event incorporated both special needs and non-special needs students, to demonstrate that there are more similarities than differences to be celebrated.
Cae Menai Davis, a member of the Jason Roberts Foundation and Director of the Golf Trust, said, “The project is Grenadian, run by Grenadians, for Grenadians and that’s the biggest thing. It’s that strategy to develop employment opportunities; awareness opportunities; volunteering opportunities and that’s the key to the whole project.”
Despite a bit of inclement weather, approximately 80 SGU student volunteers showed up and there was increased participation among both parents and students, compared to 2016.
Remi Neville, a 1st year SGU medical student, said, “I’m part of the Student Government Association and they were the ones who brought it to our attention and I had a couple friends who were in the student government association last semester and they told me they had taken part in it and it was really fun, so I was excited to get involved with it.”
Rachael Endicott, a 6th term SGU veterinary student, brought her GSPCA adopted dog, who has 3 legs, to interact with the children. “Dr. Marta had asked us to come and bring them, just so that the kids would be able to see a dog that isn’t like all the other dogs,” she explained.
Dr Marta Lanza, Director of Grenada Down Syndrome Association and a professor at the SGU School of Veterinary Medicine, said she was impressed with the support shown by SGU volunteers and the SGU Student Government Association, whose donation helped with the transportation of students and refreshments for the event.
“They have sponsored us with money, with a monetary donation that was very substantial,” Lanza said.
Along with the various volunteers, students engaged in activities geared at allowing them to socialise; exercise and most of all have fun. Activities included face painting; colouring and drawing; football; blowing of bubbles; yoga and sensory activities, where students played with various textured substances and materials.
Jamal Welsh, a student at the Grenada School for Special Education, said, “I’ve been to it 2 years now; I come here, and I enjoy the football so far and then the golf and everything.”
Kaijah Budhlall, a student at the Higher Marks Educational Centre, said, “My most favourite activity was mini golf, although I couldn’t see the target, I was still having fun.”
Educators were delighted with the level of engagement of their students.
Sherry Hamlet, an English and Literature Teacher at the Resource Centre for the Blind, said, “I have seen that a lot of the activities chosen allow for our students to be very hands-on; allow for them to develop their fine motor skills and to get up close and there are a range of materials, so that they don’t feel pressured to fit in, but rather to celebrate the ways that they stand out.”
Parents are impressed with the quality of the activity and its impact on their children.
Veronica Mapp-Alexander, a parent of one of the participants, said, “I think that the activity gives us parents ideas – you know – of things that we can do to really help our children to cope and to develop in certain situations.”
Another parent, Shorna Frank, felt supported because of the event.
“It gives you encouragement; makes you have more patience, with your child, because sometimes you tend to tell yourself you’re alone in this thing,” she said.
The organisers are thankful for the continued support of the various sponsors and volunteers who make the event a reality. Among the sponsors are SGU and its Student Government Association; Waggy T Rentals; Sugar and Spice; Huggins; Independence Agencies Limited; Grenada Breweries Limited; Aqua Blue; CK’s Super Valu and Republic Bank.
Lanza said, “This event cannot happen without their help, so we really want to really acknowledge them and thank them.”
Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development