The Tournament of Champions, held by the Exercise Science Department at McDaniel College in April, is for students in grades K-12 with orthopedic, visual, and behavioral needs who participate in regular education classes. There is a large variety of activities including, soccer, basketball, box hockey, volleyball, baseball, lacrosse, parachute activities and bike races. This event is all about focusing on providing a day that is all about the them.
This program has been growing more and more every year. My freshman year there were less Buddies and events for the children to do. Each year there are more activities and more people volunteering. The volunteers used to only be student athletes amongst the campus but now it is growing all across campus.
I am part of the volleyball team here at McDaniel. Over the past 3 years I have volunteered to participate and help with Tournament of Champions. I decided to volunteer for this event when my teammate explained to me how much of an impact it makes on the children and families, and how easy it is to take just five hours out of my day to make an impact in someone’s life. The first year I participated I just helped out with the volleyball station and watched as the athletes had the time of their lives. The past two years I have become more involved by having a Buddy.
This year there were so many participants that some of us had to double up on buddies. My Buddy was a 14 year-old girl. She is a very intelligent girl, a little shy but full of knowledge. She expressed that she does not like sports very much but she was willing to try everything. Seeing her smile when she made her first basket in basketball, and getting the puck through the whole in box hockey made me extremely happy and reminded me why I love volunteering for this event every year.
The event is really important to me because children with special needs have a hard time joining sports teams at school because they may not have the same capabilities as other children at their age; therefore Tournament of Champions allows these athletes to get the experience and enjoyment of competition.
Becky Arseneault, a senior majoring in exercise science and head intern for the program, says, “I participated in Tournament of Champions my freshman and sophomore year and immediately fell in love. When I got the email about becoming an intern I jumped at the opportunity. It has been a fun experience, and it is so rewarding knowing that we are able to provide these students with a day that’s all about them.”
The impact of this event on the children is breathtaking. The parents are so grateful for just the five hours us volunteers are playing and interacting with their children.
My buddy’s mother explains that her daughter, “has been looking forward to this day ever since she left Tournament of Champions last year.” Even seeing the parents faces light up as they watch their children is why I volunteer for this every year. It makes the children feel like they can do anything.