Pair up 300 special needs citizens with more than 600 university students and you’ve got yourself a record-setting and historic FunDay.
FunDay is the longest standing service tradition at the University of Miami, and it celebrated a milestone this year: its 30th anniversary.
With the number of students preregistered for FunDay as of Wednesday, this was also the biggest.
“You’ve got bounce houses, dunk tanks, karaoke, photobooths, BBQ – it’s a lot of fun,” FunDay Vice-Chair Lisa Cameron said.
FunDay brings together special needs citizens with a range of circumstances, from autism spectrum disorder to physically disabilities, for a day of partnered friendship with the university students on campus.
“It’s about friendship, fun, having an open mind and opening yourself up to a new experience,” FunDay Chair Amanda Corey said.
According to Corey, about 150 of the special needs citizens, or buddies, come from the Wayside Baptist Church community and the rest from group homes and the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism Related Disabilities.
Special needs citizens were brought to Stanford Circle and then split up into several groups and joined by the UM students to share a carnival-like experience.
The FunDay staff guided the buddies from Stanford Circle to the Rock, where they enjoyed the activities at six different stations designed around the theme “30 Years of Fun in the Sun.”
“We’ve stuck with the theme this year and will be having things from coconut bowling to hula hoop lessons,” Cameron said.
Additional stations included arts and crafts and dance therapy. They were manned by students in other organizations partnering with FunDay.
“We’re going to have about 12 to 13 different organizations that will have their own booth, including Greek Life, which always plays a big role,” Corey said.
One of the collaborative events was a Hawaiian club performance in line with the luau theme.
The Butler Center for Service and Leadership plays a key role in these on-campus and off-campus collaborations, according to public relations coordinator Mike Piacentino.
“We predominantly have helped with the funding, resources such as printing fliers, weekly direct advising, the planning process, logistics and reservations,” Piacentino said.
Not only has the Butler Center been a resource for FunDay since its own inception, but FunDay predates the Butler Center itself.
“We’ve had a really good foundation from the beginning,” Corey said. “Our sponsors, and the reality that it’s a UM tradition, now have really played a key role in sustaining this event.”
FunDay has become a defining event for service at the university, but for the visiting buddies, it is just as important.
“I can’t even imagine having to break to them that there wouldn’t be a FunDay next year,” Cameron said. “Some of the them have been coming since they were kids and now they’re adults.”