Harding students and faculty participated in several events the last few weeks to raise funds for the upcoming Special Olympics Arkansas Summer Games, where hundreds of disabled athletes from across the state will meet up on Harding’s campus and compete in various events this May.
Representatives from the College of Education teamed up with the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders for the Polar Plunge on Saturday, Feb. 20. The Harding group along with several groups from the community raised money before dressing up and jumping into a swimming pool at the Econo Lodge Inn and Suites in Searcy.
This was the second year Searcy hosted a Polar Plunge, according to junior vice president of Scholars Advancing Learning and Teaching (S.A.L.T.) Tiffany Beck.
Harding raised more than $1,300 for the Polar Plunge, according to assistant professor of education Lisa Bryant. Students held a bake sale and received many donations to raise funds for the teaming jumping from Harding. The team made the plunge along with groups from the Searcy Police Department, Searcy Fire Department, Walmart and others, raising over $17,000 for Special Olympics Arkansas.
“Going (to the event) and seeing the support of people in the community was really encouraging,” Beck said.
Along with the Polar Plunge, students and faculty were also involved in the Special Olympics Area 6 basketball tournament on Feb. 19, according to Bryant. Members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams acted as referees in the games.
Senior salt secretary major Danielle Nonaka, who jumped with Beck and Bryant in the Polar Plunge, has been involved with Special Olympics in Arkansas and in her home state of Virginia and said volunteers for these Special Olympics events are always needed.
“We try to allow people to see how important it is to volunteer and how much it benefits these kids,” Bryant said.
The support for Special Olympics in Searcy has grown the last couple of years, according to Bryant. Bryant said she hopes interest in supporting Special Olympics will reach more of Harding’s students and possibly involve social clubs in the future, as Relay for Life does in the fall.
Since most Harding students will be gone during the Special Olympics Summer Games, some of the faculty, including Bryant, volunteer to help out with the events.
“I look forward to getting to see kids succeed,” Bryant said. “The (Special Olympics Athlete’s) Oath says, ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ And I don’t ever walk away without watching kids be brave.”
The Special Olympics Arkansas Summer Games will be held May 26-28 on Harding’s campus. To find out more about the games, visit specialolympicsarkansas.org.