Winter Adapted Games a success

Winter Adapted Games participants took advantage of the balmy weather to play some frisbee on Saturday.
Winter Adapted Games participants took advantage of the balmy weather to play some frisbee on Saturday.

On Saturday, more than 100 Queen’s students from the School of Physical and Health Education and the School of Rehabilitation Therapy pulled together after months of planning to run the sixth annual Winter Adapted Games, an event that gives children with disabilities a chance to have a fun, athletic day.

“I think it’s a great way to give back to the community,” said Adele Legault, PhysEd ’06. “It’s amazing to see the responses of the volunteers and the kids.”

The Games took place mostly in the PEC between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. About 70 young people between the ages of five and 21—most from Kingston and the surrounding area—participated, and each one was paired up with a student buddy. In addition to the buddies, there were about 30 students running the events and 18 more on the organizing committee.

Each year the Games have a theme. This year it was “Rodeo,” and the volunteers dressed up in straw cowboy hats, plaid shirts, sheriff-star name tags and, in a few cases, cowboy boots. The volunteers had also spent a great deal of time decorating the second floor of the PEC, the walls of which were covered with elaborate decorations and painted paper cut-outs.

All the events are adapted so that all children can participate regardless of their disability. Also, if any child doesn’t want to participate in a given event, an alternative is provided, such as some time in the craft room.

Events included swimming, indoor soccer, beach volleyball, scooter handball and a dance-off at the end of the day. There was a horse-drawn sleigh ride through campus, but one of the usual hits, tobogganing, wasn’t possible due to the unseasonably warm weather. Finally, one of the committee members was secretly named the “bandit,” and the children received clues throughout the day as to who it was.

The participants were divided into two age groups, from five to 12, and from 13 to 21. They have a wide range of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, ADHD and muscular dystrophy. All the volunteers received training prior to the Games, and speakers were brought in beforehand to educate students about their buddies’ disabilities.

The volunteers, who have put in countless hours organizing the games since September, repeatedly told the Journal it had been worth it.

“I love kids, and I really enjoy helping them out and giving them a fun day,” said Laura Hayos, PhysEd ’08. “I’m loving it. Everyone—both Queen’s students and kids—look like they’re having a lot of fun.”

One of the buddy recruitment officers from the organizing committee, Laura McNicol, PhysEd ’08, said there were lots of people interested in helping out.

“There were tons of people interested. I knew it was a great event, and everyone I know said it was just the best day ever,” McNicol said. “I plan on continuing [to participate] every year. It’s all about the kids. Once you see them up and dancing and clapping, it’s fun.”

Danielle Simpson, PhysEd ’06 and one of the co-chairs of the organizing committee, said that the Games are mostly about giving the kids a fun day, but that there is something to be learned from it as well.

“It’s also to expose them to having a healthy and active lifestyle,” she said.

Legault added Queen’s students could learn from the day as well.

“It’s also a good way for Queen’s students to have good community relations,” she said.

Adam Ross, PhysEd ’06 and a member of the organizing committee, said he thought the day was as good for the students as for the children involved.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to expand my horizons,” he said. “Every year seems to get better and better.”

The volunteers had a great deal of support from both the Queen’s community and the larger Kingston community. The Queen’s Bands, the dance team and the juggling club all participated. In addition the event was sponsored by Loblaws, Quiznos, and the Campus Bookstore, which donated more than 130 t-shirts.

Fundraising began in late October, and organizers held a smokers and sold candy necklaces at bars. Fundraising was an important part of preparations, Legault said, noting that the event costs between $2,000 and $3,000 to run each year.

Lara Pilutti, PhysEd ’06, was enjoying her fourth year at the Games. She said she had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“I was a buddy for two years and on the committee for the last two years as decoration coordinator,” she said.

“We had a lot of help, and quite a lot of work went into it. We started planning in October, and I really like doing the decorations because the kids really get into it.”

Public relations coordinator Allison Verney, PhysEd ’08, said she was thrilled with this year’s Games.

“I think it’s really good to be involved in it because it builds up the student’s character as well as the child’s,” she said. “It’s so amazing to interact with them.”

Verney, who was participating for the second straight year, said that the day had several highlights.

“The sleigh ride [was a highlight]—the kids absolutely love it,” she said. “My buddy wanted to get on again. And swimming. They have a chair lift to allow children in wheelchairs into the water, and they get life-jackets if they need them, but lots of them swim pretty well.”

The day ended with a slide show of pictures, which provided a chance for the children’s parents to come and see what they had done.

“The parents can come in and watch the slide show too, and they say how much the kids love it,” Verney said.

“It’s a day when they get to play with other kids, and it’s also a day for the parents to relax.”

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