FunDay volunteers foster close personal connections with disabled community

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Last year’s service day was widespread throughout the campus, with activity stations spread across the center of campus from the Foote Green to the Shalala Student Center. This year, however, the FunDay executive board decided it was time to bring back the intimate “community” feel, according to senior and Funding Chair Micaela Nannery.

“We felt that it had [become]a little too widespread,” Nannery said. “We wanted to make sure that there were enough personal connections.”

FunDay pairs more than 350 special-needs citizens, or “buddies,” from the Miami-Dade area with student volunteers for a day of games, food and fun. More than 650 University of Miami students participated.

Sophomore Earl Generato said he participated because he had a neighbor with special needs growing up and understood the struggles they have in society. He said he remembers how the other kids in his neighborhood would stigmatize his neighbor for “being different.”

“This day is really about just understanding that we are all the same,” Generato said. “We all have the same arms and legs. We’re all human.”

Freshman Taylor McCloskey and her FunDay partner Susy share a laugh in the University Center Saturday afternoon. FunDay is the longest standing service day at the University of Miami and brings over 300 special citizens from the surrounding area on campus to enjoy a day of fun and games. Evelyn Choi // Staff Photographer

Freshman Taylor McCloskey and her FunDay partner Susy share a laugh in the University Center Saturday afternoon. FunDay is the longest standing service day at the University of Miami and brings over 300 special citizens from the surrounding area on campus to enjoy a day of fun and games. Evelyn Choi // Staff Photographer

This year’s theme for FunDay was Around the World. Attendees participated in crafts like decorating passports, watch student-led dance performances and play different instruments, including bongos.

Nannery, who first volunteered as a freshman, said the purpose of the event was to have fun but also to bridge the the gap of misconceptions and prejudice that exists when interacting with intellectually disabled people.

“We want to promote positive relationships, especially among young students and our buddies,” she said.

Sophomore Angelica Previero said she volunteered for FunDay exactly for that reason—to have a positive relationship with her buddy, one borne out of a feeling of safety and connection.

“It’s great day for them to come out to a safe environment and connect with other people who are really just like them,” she said.

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