Best Buddies’ FunDay comes to campus

Mark B. shows off his cape to FunDay volunteers during arts and crafts during FunDay 2010 in the UC ballroom. The theme for last years FunDay was superheros. Courtesy Alyssa Laferrera

Student volunteers will be hosting FunDay, the university’s longest-running community service event, on Saturday.

The event brings together hundreds of  “buddies” – people around South Florida with intellectual and developmental disabilities – and pairs them with a student for a day of food, activities and fun.

“The buddies refer to this event as their Christmas,” FunDay co-chair Emily Packard said.

This year’s pirate-themed event will kick off at 9 a.m. on the Rock. The buddies will be bussed to UM from their residences and take part in different activities around the campus. Around 400 buddies are expected to participate.

Each UM student gets paired with a buddy. The games will begin with a fun fair of arts and crafts, game booths and dunking tanks followed by a BBQ and desserts sponsored by Chartwells and Blue Bell Ice Cream.

In the past, an outside vendor has provided the entertainment, but this year the coordinators of FunDay are having the students provide the music and dancing.

“For years, we had people and companies come in to perform, but this year we will have our own campus community’s talent,” Packard said.

Performances by Salsa Craze, Quantum, Miami Ballroom, Miami Motion, UM Chaos and Phi Mu Alpha are scheduled. Sebastian the Ibis will also stop by the event.

Karaoke will be used as a music therapy activity to keep the events interactive.

“The buddies want to feel free, be themselves and most importantly, have fun,” co-chairman Amanda Corey said. “Karaoke is their individual time to shine.”

Guest speaker Jorge Morilla was one of the first ambassadors of the Best Buddies program and is buddies with the organization’s founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver. Morilla has traveled around the world, speaking at other Best Buddies-affiliated events similar to FunDay.

Hosting this kind of activity involving students is one of the functions of the Butler Center.

“Working from the outside and seeing how this day impacts the volunteers and their buddies, the new staff was sure to keep it,” the center’s new director Andrew Weimer said.

FunDay, which was organized with the help of Best Buddies and local churches, will last until 2 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, go to facebook.com/UMFunDay or visit the Butler Center on the second floor of the University Center.