‘Charging’ toward a goal

Students from Providence Day School’s junior class are joining together to make a difference in the lives of children and young adults throughout the Charlotte region.

The students are teaming up with Take On Sports, an organization under the umbrella of the Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association, to host soccer and basketball tournaments for children and young adults with physical and/or mental disabilities. The Chargers Take On Sports Field Day will take place Nov. 10, a Sunday, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Providence Day, 5800 Sardis Road in Charlotte.

The field day has been in the works for more than six months. During her sophomore year, Providence Day student Lucie Smul was elected to serve on the student government. The sophomore government was tasked with creating a service learning project that could incorporate their entire class, allowing all sophomores the chance to reach out to the community. The members of the student government decided to focus their efforts on something that would benefit physically and mentally disabled children within the community.

“People have field days for elementary kids all the time,” Lucie said. “We wanted to do something that was a little harder.”

Organizing the field day required extensive planning – finding an organization to partner with, connecting with sponsors, promoting the event and making sure the students at Providence Day had the proper education to work with individuals with disabilities. But Lucie and her two fellow organizers, Jack Smul and Jack Kaspar, along with their entire class, decided to stick with the project and continue working on it into their junior year.

Lucie connected with Take On Sports – which compared to the Special Olympics – through fellow organizer Jack Kaspar, who had worked with the organization in the past. The organization’s leaders, Gina and John Fisher, helped guide Lucie through the planning process and visited Providence Day earlier this week to talk to the students about how to safely and effectively work and play with children with physical or mental disabilities.

Lucie said at first her peers were a bit apprehensive about working with their field day guests, but after the Fishers’ presentation people began to feel much more at ease.

“It’s crazy how much it’s changed. The whole purpose of the event is to break the barrier between physically and mentally disabled children” and everybody else, she said. “People seem kind of uncomfortable sometimes. We want to make it where people aren’t uncomfortable. (Individuals with disabilities) are just like us; they just have to go about things in a different way.”

On the day of the tournament, participants will be split up by age – ages 5 to 12 and ages 13 to 22. There will be a soccer tournament and a basketball tournament for each of the two groups, for a total of four tournaments. Providence Day students will be on hand to direct participants, cheer them on and ensure the event goes smoothly.

One of the most challenging things about organizing the field day, Lucie said, has been reaching out to sponsors. But she and her fellow planners already have experienced success in securing donations from Coca-Cola.

“We don’t have the (ability) to buy 400 drinks or 50 balloons,” she said. “It’s hard for people to take you seriously when you’re talking about the cause and you’re a 16-year-old girl. That’s been a challenge.”

She added making sure all liability bases are covered and getting the word out also has been hard work. But amidst the busyness of organizing the event, Lucie is excited to see her efforts come to fruition.

“The part that’s really cool about this is it is fully student run. It’s a totally student-run service project for our class,” she said. “As an organizer, I’m looking forward to seeing it happen. As a volunteer, I’m looking forward to seeing how my classmates interact (and seeing) the faces on the children and volunteers. Once people do it once, I know they’re going to want to go back and volunteer with (Take On Sports) again.”

Lucie said the school is hoping to have more participants sign up for the field day. The students also are looking for sponsors and donations to help cover operating costs of the event. Go to http://bit.ly/GEBqiT to register as a participant or http://tinyurl.com/psropdm to donate.

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