UNIFIED SPORTS DAY CANCELLED FOR 2021

LAUREN WISDOM, TRUMPET SPORTS EDITOR

Unified Sports Day, a day that allows Wartburg students to engage in various activities with Special Olympics athletes, has been cancelled for 2021. The event was to take place on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. 

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is in charge of Unified Sports Day every year. According to the vice president of SAAC, Bailey Naig, the executive team knew that the chances were slim as the event would land in the middle of a pandemic. The SAAC executive team kept in touch with the Special Olympics organization, which was skeptical about going forward with the event, according to Naig. 

PHOTO FROM LAST YEAR’S UNIFIED SPORTS DAY. PHOTO COURTESY OF WARTBURG COLLEGE MARKETING & COMMUNICATION.

SAAC was prepared to put the event together last minute in the Wartburg-Waverly Sports and Wellness Center. It was an option to do “practices” of up to 10 people— with Special Olympics athletes and Wartburg volunteers — due to COVID-19 restrictions. It was a risk not only for the Special Olympics athletes, but also for the Wartburg student-competing athletes. Therefore, SAAC decided that it was safer to not host practices this year, according to Naig.  

Other large events are still working to have events, such as Entertainment ToKnight or Dance Marathon, which have decided to host their big event in the spring based on the decision by the Dance Marathon organization. They will be follow Wartburg’s policy on COVID-19 gatheringsSAAC had to consider other matters to still go ahead with Unified Sports Day.  

“Many of the athletes are at a higher risk for developing the virus and many of the Wartburg volunteers are participating in athletics, so we felt that it would be best to cancel Unified Sports Day this year for the safety of everyone,” Sydney Illg, a member of the SAAC executive team said. “Different than Dance Marathon, it would be very difficult to keep the Special Olympics athletes socially distanced from volunteers, as many of the athletes have physical disabilities that would require additional assistance to enjoy the activities.” 

In previous years, SAAC had spent  time organizing Unified Sports Day to make it memorable. SAAC works very closely with Heather Zajicek, one of the SAAC faculty representatives, in advance. According to Naig, preparing for Unified Sports Day mostly consists of finding many student volunteers, preparing packets for all the athletes involved, keeping in contact with the Special Olympics organization, T-shirt design, as well as basic day of set up, tear down and regulation.

Unified Sports Day volunteers have positive feedback about their involvement. 

PHOTO FROM LAST YEAR’S UNIFIED SPORTS DAY. PHOTO COURTESY OF WARTBURG COLLEGE MARKETING & COMMUNICATION.

“My favorite part about Unified Sports Day is getting to play the fun activities with the Special Olympics athletes and getting to know them better,” Illg said. “The whole day of Unified Sports Day is filled with positivity and fun while making new friends. The athletes are always so happy and excited to participate that we can’t help but feel the same way. It really is such a fun and heartwarming experience because we know that the Special Olympics athletes truly love interacting and playing games with us.” 

“I enjoy all the activities in Unified Sports Day, and I think every athlete thrives in a different area, which keeps things interesting and exciting,” Naig said. “The final basketball game of the day is always a crowd pleaser.” 

Choosing to volunteer at Unified Sports Day can benefit someone’s overall well-being by doing something good for the community.

“Not only is Unified Sports Day a very fun day, but it is a great way to give back to the Wartburg community,” Naig said. “We are supported immensely by our surrounding community, and every chance to give back is a good one.  Everyone leaves the day feeling great.” 

Although Wartburg students will not get the opportunity due to the pandemic, SAAC hopes that the event will take place next year and the years to come. 

“We are looking forward to next year when we can safely have Unified Sports Day,” Illg said. 

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