HARRISONBURG, Va., Oct. 8, 2011- Special Olympics athletes from across Virginia were welcomed to the campus of James Madison University by the football, basketball and soccer teams for the fifth annual Day with the Dukes. Approximately 60 athletes and 20 chaperones traveled to Harrisonburg and spent the morning meeting their peer buddies before spending their afternoon with the athletes.
Day with the Dukes was created five years ago by a student who wanted to give back to the community. He contacted Daniel Leake, Special Olympics representative for the Shenandoah Region, and together they laid the framework for this community event. Special Olympic athletes are introduced to the teams, participate in drills with them and have their commemorative shirts signed by the teams.
"Day with the Dukes is a wonderful event where Special Olympians from all over Virginia get to come meet our athletes and our school," said Catherine Clarke, Special Events Coordinator with JMU Psychology Peer Advising. "It is a culminating event where different people get together and play sports and are all on the same playing field; they get to know each other on a different level."
The event was jointly planned by Special Olympics Virginia, JMU Athletics and JMU Psychology Peer Advising. Volunteers for Day with the Dukes included Psychology Peer Advising, Best Buddies, Aletheia Church and various fraternities.
The Olympians met with the football players and entered Bridgeforth Stadium under the canopy of the inflatable Duke Dog in the end zone, to the music of the Marching Royal Dukes. The athletes paired up with the football team to stretch, run the football into the end zone and practice kicking field goals. Coach Mickey Matthews spoke to the entire group and signed shirts for the athletes as well.
The basketball and soccer teams worked with the participants on their shooting and dribbling skills in Godwin Hall.
Senior midfielder Yolie Anderson-Golhor reflected on the day with the Olympians. "It's a reminder, a reality check on how much we actually enjoy the game. It takes away from the competitive aspect of soccer and really makes us realize why we play. You have people here that are so happy to just be touching the ball and that's something we take for granted every day, so I think that's the coolest part about it."
Be sure to check out the additional multimedia coverage from Day with the Dukes by clicking on the attached photo gallery courtesy of JMU athletics and video piece courtesy of JMU public affairs and marketing.