Special Olympics Committee charges forward during fall break



Bridget Nyland

Turning down service trips and late mornings, the Special Olympics Committee stayed on campus over fall break in order to prepare for the 2007 Fall Festival.

About 40 members of the student committee participated in the fall break meetings, including Fall Festival Director Jennifer Park, the five management team directors, committee chairpeople and, when chairs could not attend, their assistants. Director of Student Life and Special Olympics Adviser Walidah Justice and the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania Liaison Melissa Moody White also helped in the preparations.

Together, the Special Olympics committee traveled to East Stroudsberg University in eastern Pennsylvania to help them run the Sectional Games.

These games are the qualifying games for the Fall Festival. The Villanova Committee uses these games as a test run, looking for problems and the most efficient way to organize.

“This is a great way to prepare ourselves for our own venues and to interact with the athletes,” Director of Competition senior Mallory Karl said.

At the East Stroudsberg games, the athletes raved about the Villanova event and could not wait to attend.

Many athletes said that they were trying their best at sectionals so they could compete at the Fall Festival.

“The athletes were really excited,” Director of Administration senior Mallory Smith said. “If they found out you were from Villanova, they would express so much enthusiasm about Fall Festival and were really hoping to attend.”

Back at Villanova, the committee participated in days of meetings.

These included “Hour by Hours,” or a timed schedule detailing exactly what is going on at any hour of the weekend. They also walked through the venues so all the committees know exactly what needs to be done.

“We went through where medical and security need to be at each venue, how many volunteers, where to deliver tables and chairs, etc.,” Karl said.

Human Resources took advantage of the fall break to organize a new corporate volunteer program and manage the many groups of volunteers participating during the Fall Festival.

Also, a new VIP reception for sponsors has been implemented this year, requiring some extra work.

The Administration Committee met with University administration in order to make sure everyone was on the same page for the weekend.

They also worked on inputting athlete’s information into computers.

“A lot of the things seem trivial, but, are really critical to the success of the weekend,” Smith said. “The information is necessary for athlete’s nametags which are really important for competitions.”

However, while the teams made great leaps forward in planning, there were still some gaps in information.

“There was incomplete information and numbers on various volunteers which will not finalize their information until closer to the Festival, which leaves some guesswork to the allocation of volunteers as well as viable ways of coordinating all of our unforeseen volunteers,” said senior Gregory Andrusisian, director of Human Resources.

Still, without staying on campus during fall break, this preparation would be significantly more difficult.

Not only does the committee need to work around each others’ schedules, they need to work around Special Olympics personnel’s schedules which often clash with their own.

“Every year staying over fall break is a great help,” Karl said. “It allows us to get a lot of planning done and [get] questions answered without being busy with other work (i.e. school work).”

Also, with the whole committee there devoted solely to preparing for Special Olympics, the process of organizing becomes much more efficient.

“It helps everyone to be on the same page because once the Festival begins, each person must not only be knowledgeable of their specific assigned tasks but also of each part of the Festival,” Andrusisian said.

Overall, one factor was constantly emphasized during the fall break plans: volunteers.

The directors stressed that even with all the planning and preparations, the overall atmosphere that makes Fall Festival so great would not be possible without volunteers.

“The greatest thing a volunteer can do is cheer on the athletes,” Andrusisian said. “It may not be as concrete as making sandwiches and hosting a booth in O-Town, but every athlete, coach and family member truly appreciates the excitement and support of the volunteers on the sidelines.”

“Our goal is to have many more spectators and volunteers to really cheer on the athletes to make the entire environment that much better,” Karl said.