Presbyterian College continued its tradition of student service as the host of the Area 5 Special Olympics held last Friday in Bailey Memorial Stadium.
PC has played host to the Area 5 Special Olympics for decades through the hard work of generations of Student Volunteer Services participants.
The Rev. Dr. Buz Wilcoxon ’05 fondly remembers the event serving Special Olympians from Laurens, Abbeville, Greenwood, McCormick, and Newberry counties. As a former SVS member and intern at PC, he is keenly aware of the dedication it takes from student volunteers to make the Special Olympics a success each spring.
“Nostalgically, it’s wonderful to see such a strong tradition continue,” he said.
As a college staff member, Wilcoxon remains in awe that the event remains entirely run by students.
“Now, I’m doing what the students tell me to do,” he said.
The names may change each year, but the measure of success has not. Success is not measured by medals or wins – but by effort and joy.
“Just seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces – the athletes, the teachers, the student volunteers,” Wilcoxon said. “There’s not way you could ask for a better day that this.”
Wilcoxon is not the only Special Olympics veteran, however. Hallie Keisler, a first-year student in PC’s Occupational Therapy program, returned for another year as the event coordinator after serving in the same role her senior year.
Keisler and other first and second-year students from the OT program participated in this year’s Special Olympics in celebration of OT Month and as a service-learning experience.
OT assistant professor and admissions coordinator Dr. Melissa Turpin ’08 said students not only work at Special Olympics but are expected to learn something from the experience.
“Special Olympics was a perfect way to promote our profession and serve our community,” she said. “The second-year students have an assignment for my class to reflect on the day and use their clinical reasoning skills to analyze movement, body structures, and client factors to come up with innovative adaptations for specific athletes to increase participation and performance in these events, which encompass the occupations of play and leisure.”
For PC seniors Dessa Jones and Riley Hulett, Special Olympics is an opportunity to go out serving with a bang as their undergraduate years come to an end.
“I think ending my time as the service intern with the Special Olympics is especially meaningful to me,” Jones said. “I’m a special ed major, so I’m seeing a lot of kids that I’ve gotten to work with over the years and a lot of kids that I will get to work with in my career.”
Looking back on her time at PC, Jones, who will teach special education at Waterloo Elementary School in Laurens County School District 55 this fall, is thankful for the many student service opportunities she has participated in over the years.
“I actually chose PC and fell in love with PC because of the service opportunities and how much PC valued servant leadership, especially from students,” Jones said. “To be here and participate in such an active way is really, really wonderful.”
Hulett’s journey as a student volunteer has been affected by global pandemics and scheduling conflicts – but her enthusiasm for spending time during her final semester at PC with Special Olympians is contagious.
“My senior year, I really took on a lot of service projects and just wanted to make up for those lost years,” she said. “It’s been incredible being here today.”
The Rev. British Hyrams was on the field for her first Area 5 Special Olympics at PC. As the college’s new Jack and Jane Presseau Associate Chaplain, she will enjoy many more working with SVS, which the late Dr. Jack Presseau founded.
“Just watching students put together something so large – handling all of the pieces and handling all of the challenges – is just amazing,” she said. “I look forward to working with students in the future, knowing that I can be a guide for them, but they’ve got this. They grow and learn doing it.
Hyrams said she was also touched by how Special Olympics unites people to serve one another.
“In this space, we are all God’s people,” she said. “It is just beautiful to see all of God’s people being honored and being cheered on – and it is an honor to be part of that.”