Students team up with kids for tournament of champions

April 07, 2008

Eight-year-old Robby Shilling is tired. He’s been running races all morning at the Tournament of Champions March 27 in Gill Gym. Exercise Science and Chemistry double major Cory Briggs ’09, his partner for the day, can’t keep up. But the McDaniel football player sure tried.

“We’ve gotten to the point where the only game he wants to play is when he runs and I chase,” Briggs said with a tired smile.

Shilling is one of nearly 50 kids with physical, visual or emotional disabilities participating in the 19th annual tournament. A McDaniel student is partnered with each athlete as they participate in 18 sporting events, including basketball, football and Frisbee throwing, soccer ball kicking and softball hitting.

“Sometimes we take our natural abilities for granted,” said organizer and Assistant Professor of Exercise Science and Physical Education Andi Hoffman. “It’s good to see that these kids don’t want to feel different. They’re simply developing their capabilities.”

McDaniel volunteers, many of whom have taken the course “Adapted Physical Education” or education courses with Associate Professor of Education Janet Medina, describe the day as both fun and eye-opening. Brian Walker ’11 worked for the first time with a participant who used a communication board instead of voice.

“That’s his way of communicating,” said Walker. “You take for granted you get to talk and not everyone can.”

Jim Bullock, the area supervisor for special needs for the Carroll County school system, founded the program nearly two decades ago. He says there’s no better home for the tournament than McDaniel College.

“I’m really proud that it’s gone on this long,” says Bullock. “I’m proud of the association we have with the College. We know students here are enthusiastic and well trained to help the kids succeed.”