FunDay takes participants ‘around the world’

Captivating the hearts of special citizens and UM students alike, FunDay, one of the largest philanthropic events at the university, continues to rock the campus every year. On Feb. 18, approximately 400 students were paired with special citizens from the Miami-Dade community as buddies for the day.

This year’s theme for the 25th anniversary was “Around the World in 25 FunDays,” which included areas around and within the UC decorated as South America, Asia, America, Europe and Africa.

Each of five color-coded groups rotated between these stations and culminated the day’s events with a closing ceremony.

At the opening ceremony, Harry Forgan, a professor of 37 years in the School of Education, greeted the special citizens and buddies as the official UM clown, while Sebastian posed with others for pictures.

Groups of special citizens danced the morning away and showed how to really dance with Elvis Presley imitations and break dancing.

“I thought it was a really good way to welcome everybody and make them feel comfortable,” Carmen Johnson, a freshman, said. “The special citizens probably don’t have an area where they openly have fun and be themselves, so it was a way for them to let loose, be free and be themselves.”

As the different groups moved from station to station, the excitement on the faces of the special citizens and buddies was evident.

“It’s exciting to watch the UM students because at the beginning of the day they’re kind of apprehensive, but at the end of the day everyone is hugging each other, and don’t want to leave,” Tyler Ingold, group leader, said.

The special citizens traveled to the five continents of the world where they learned tribal dances and a welcome song in Africa and how to salsa dance in South America, and participated in a European fun fair. Buddies and citizens also dined at an American barbecue and exercised their artistic talents in Asia.

Various clubs and fraternities on campus such as Salsa Craze and the African Student Association volunteered to lead and help out at different stations.

“FunDay actually has a special meaning for me because I have family friends who are considered special people,” said Bryan Lembo, freshman member of Lambda Chi Alpha. “I’ve also volunteered with special people during my confirmation, and in high school.”

Group leaders and members of the executive board come back year after year to take part in the program.

“I’ve been participating in FunDay for three years and it’s my second year being a group leader. It’s all about thinking on your feet,” Emily Furst, group leader, said.

Executive board member Patti Garavito said she was thrilled to lead the event this year.

“Last year I was a student buddy and I really enjoyed it, so I wanted to be a part of putting it together and making it a special day for the citizens and buddies,” she said. “The special citizens look forward to this every year, and it’s really opened my eyes to see that there are people with needs out there.”

By the end of the day, tired yet satisfied participants gathered at the UC Rock where the closing ceremony took place.

“It was fun!” Stephanie Estael, a sophomore, said. “Waking up early was kind of hard, but once I got up it was fun. I love [the special citizens]! It really melted my heart.”

Sharde Chambers can be contacted at