This past weekend, many Salus students and faculty members alike took time out of their busy schedules to volunteer at the 30th annual Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) Fall Festival.
Organized and hosted by and at Villanova University, this year’s theme was "Once Upon aFallFest: A Story of Bravery" and featured six Olympic-type games including bocce, long distance running, powerlifting, roller skating, soccer and volleyball. For this year’s event, the Villanova campus was transformed into an athlete’s wonderland, incorporating opening ceremonies, a parade of athletes, Healthy Athletes® screenings, an Olympic Town offering games, music and fun, a victory dance and closing ceremonies into the festivities.
Brandy Scombordi, OD, pediatric optometrist at The Eye Institute of Salus University
, has volunteered at this specific Special Olympics event since 2000. This year she was the lead doctor for the Salus Pennsylvania College of Optometry screenings. “I think the most rewarding is that the [Salus] students continue to come back and tell me, year after year, how much they enjoy it,” she said. “It is surprising to me as we work really hard while at the event, sometimes without any breaks or even a second to sit down.”
The optometry volunteers performed eye exams from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and saw 138 athletes, gave out 83 pairs of prescription glasses, which were made on site, and 55 pairs of sunglasses. While some students were only scheduled for a morning shift, they ended up staying all day.
Lindsay Bondurant, PhD, CCC-A, director, Pennsylvania Ear Institute
, assistant professor is also a volunteer veteran, who has lent her time faithfully for 30 years – starting when she was in middle school. Dr. Bondurant and the University’s Osborne College of Audiology
student volunteers manned the Healthy Hearing table. “I love working with Special Olympics Healthy Hearing for so many reasons,” Dr. Bondurant said.
Healthy Hearing, a discipline of the Healthy Athletes organization, provides the festival attendees with comprehensive hearing screenings and follow-up recommendations and is a staple of the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival. “I really enjoy interacting with the athletes and their families – it's a joyous event, and it's nearly impossible not to smile the entire time,” Dr. Bondurant said. “I also love getting our students involved and seeing them get excited about working with people who have intellectual disabilities. I am optimistic that they will continue to provide excellent care for this population after they graduate.”
Dr. Bondurant feels strongly about the importance of all the Healthy Athletes initiatives Special Olympics supports worldwide. “People with intellectual disabilities suffer from significant healthcare disparities for a variety of reasons, and the Healthy Athletes programs bring the healthcare right to them,” she said. “It makes it easy and fun for them to get regular screenings and checkups, which can improve all aspects of their lives.”
SOPA provides year-round sports training and competition for more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities and is the biggest student-run Special Olympics event in the world. Annually the Fall Festival garners over 1,000 athletes, 400 coaches, and 6,000 volunteers from the Villanova Student Body, surrounding community, and corporations, while the events themselves require at least 2,000 volunteers.