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Winter Games brings good time to people with disabilities

Dozens of people were lined up to participate in this year’s FGCU Winter Games, an event that unites university students and other students with disabilities to have fun and get active.

The FGCU Winter Games commenced and came to a close Friday, Oct. 23. Despite the heat, the participants were all smiles. Laughter and excited yelling could be heard across the field, and many students could be seen taking group photos with big, cheesy grins.

Each FGCU volunteer became the buddy of one or more participants who were from several Lee County schools or local nonprofit organizations. The volunteers walked with their buddies around the recreation field to partake in various activities, including a hulahoop obstacle course, football throwing, body painting, soccer, sack tossing, dancing and more.

The crowd seemed to be drawn toward the music and the dancing in particular. Zeta Tau Alpha partnered with the Dancing E-Gals for this entertaining activity. At one point, after practicing a dance combination, the participants and their buddies went on to dance to the recently popular “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).”

Alyssa Jimenez, a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and the Dancing E-Gals, participating in the event provided an opportunity for her to reflect on her own life and the unique experiences of those with disabilities.

“They’re the happiest people I’ve ever met, so I think it’s a great experience — a humbling experience for us — and definitely, an exciting and fun experience for them.”

A medal-designing station was located near the dancing section. Students could create their own medals. One FGCU student, Deja Mashack, supervised the activity.

“(The Winter Games) allows anyone and everyone who usually wouldn’t be able to participate in a field day at their school to come here and be able to just have fun,” Mashack said. Assisting Mashack at her medal designing station was one student named Amanda, who also praised the event and its purpose. Amanda worked as a volunteer this year, but she was a participant in last year’s event.

“It’s a day I can help others…help others around to get involved with other people,” Amanda said. “I think it’s so nice; it’s so fun.”

Lauren Morimanno, an FGCU ambassador and the event coordinator of the Winter Games, noted the importance of this event for both the participants and the FGCU students.

“We probably, as (the) FGCU community, made their day, and they probably will talk about it all the time,” Morimanno said. “But to be honest, I think when they come here, they almost make the day of the FGCU students by showing them that life is happy and that they’re people too.”

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