UM’s ‘FunDay’ returns to campus after going virtual

The 39th annual FunDay kicked off at 10 a.m. Saturday at the University of Miami. FunDay pairs special citizens from South Florida with UM student volunteers to enjoy a day full of games, activities and food.

The fun-filled day is the university’s longest-running day of service. Over 350 Miami-area citizens with special needs are invited to the event each year. Activities were hosted online in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so volunteers celebrated a return to campus with their buddies on Saturday.

Photo credit: Michael Mok

The festivities took place outside the Richter Library and inside the UC building, with people laughing and smiling across both locations.

The event was superhero themed and ran until 2 p.m. Attendees got the chance to meet Spiderman and create superhero arts and crafts. Many also sang karaoke and enjoyed the work of a balloon artist, alongside great snacks like snow cones, popcorn and a whole barbecue.

The event was cohosted by the FunDay student organization and the William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development.

Student groups, such as the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), sat up their own booths with games and activities to create a “FunFair” for special citizens to participate in with their buddies. Games like Connect Four and bean bag toss allowed players to win prizes.

Sophomores Michelle Manfrini and Elena Hoffman pop popcorn for guests at FunDay on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. They came to FunDay to help host a game for the FunFair as members of the American Medical Student Association.
Michelle Manfrini and Elena Hoffman pop popcorn for guests at FunDay on Saturday, Feb. 26. Photo credit: Allison Bliss

Sophomores Michelle Manfrini and Elena Hoffman from the AMSA volunteered for the first time this year. They popped popcorn for buddies while other members of the association hosted more fun with games.

Many student volunteers took the time to speak with The Miami Hurricane about their experience, role and purpose in helping with the event.

Junior Diamond Fowler and freshman Eric Krasimets helped host a table for the FunFair through the Phi Delta Epsilon Medical Fraternity. The fraternity searches for opportunities to volunteer every month and the members are always eager to join in.

Junior Sierra Maziur, Chair of FunDay, said she volunteered for the service day for extra credit her freshman year and quickly fell in love with the event. She became vice chair in 2021 before moving to chair this year.

Freshman Taylor Kares distributes shirts to participants at the University of Miami's 39th  Annual Funday on February 26, 2022.
Freshman Taylor Kares distributes shirts to participants at the University of Miami's 39th  Annual Funday on February 26, 2022. Photo credit: Michael Mok

Laurisa Valladares was paired with University of Miami student Hannah Katz. Valladares stated that her favorite activity is karaoke, with her favorite song to sing being “Material Girl” by Madonna.

Katz’s sister is autistic, so she loves connecting with the special needs community and sharing with them in any way she can.

“I feel like in giving, that’s how I receive,” Katz said.

2022 marks Katz’s first year volunteering for FunDay. Valladares attended a few and was excited to soak up the day’s activities with Katz.

Photo credit: Michael Mok

Cataryna Rodriguez first volunteered for FunDay when it was virtual in 2021. She loved it last year and wanted to get more involved, so she joined as a staff leader this year.

Junior Esther Alexandre had an amazing time when she volunteered for FunDay as a freshman, so she also decided to take her volunteer work further. This year she worked on the FunDay staff and helped keep the FunFair and the barbecue organized.

Alexandre grew up with a loved one who had a disability and said she desires to “spread that love” and create a positive space where people can have fun.

Keep an eye out for the Butler Connection newsletter for future service opportunities at the university.