For the first time, Florida Gulf Coast University will be having its very first winter games from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Thursday Oct. 30 on the recreation field.
The FGCU Winter Games is a Special Olympics for people with disabilities from different organizations. Two FGCU ambassadors, Lauren Morimanno, a sophomore majoring in community health, and Alexis Butt, a sophomore majoring in elementary education, created the event for service learning.
“There has never been a Special Olympics at FGCU before,” Morimanno said. “We wanted to make our own Special Olympics, which is why it’s called ‘Winter Games.’”
FGCU students who want to take part are able to earn service-learning hours for helping out with the event.
Students who come out to help with the event can be buddies for one or more of the athletes throughout the day. Volunteers, who choose to be a buddy for the day, will play sports with them, socialize with them and eat with them. Those who do not want to be a buddy can do background work or work a station for the games.
“We have all kinds of stations,” Morimanno said. “We’re going to have a football station, a kickball station, a soccer station, cornhole, frisbee, arts and crafts and maybe a face painting station. Everyone can go around those stations and play whatever they want.”
Set up for the event begins at 9:30 a.m. and goes until about 11 a.m., which is when the participants from non-profit organizations and local high schools will be arriving on the campus. Everyone will then split up into stations. Lunch will be at about 12:30 p.m., and the organizations and high schools will go home around 1 p.m. After they leave, all that is left for the day is the break down and clean up of the event.
Before the winter games begin, there will be singing of the national anthem and a big group picture.
“It’s a special day because they get to feel like they’re number one for they day,” Morimanno said. “They get to meet so many friends. And it really is therapy without them knowing because they’re socializing and stepping out of their boxes.”
Throughout the winter games, everyone will be exercising and socializing, which helps people with disabilities grow and become more confident.
“I hope this brings awareness to students that people with disabilities are people too and that they can do what we can do too,” Butt said.
“It’s an experience that will change your life,” Morimanno said. “It’s definitely a humbling experience. Your cheeks will hurt after the event because you won’t stop smiling the whole time.”
There is no summer or spring Olympics planned to go along with the winter games. However, Morimanno and Butt said they are considering having a prom for students with disabilities during the spring semester.
Prospective volunteers for the FGCU Winter Games may contact either Lauren Morimanno at [email protected] or Alexis Butt at [email protected] for more information.