McDaniel students make K-12 students feel like champions

Freshman William Fierstein helps a student play hockey at Tournament of Champions
April 23, 2013

More than 100 McDaniel College students teamed up with about 80 K-12 students April 11 for the 24th annual Tournament of Champions.

Organized by McDaniel’s adapted physical education class taught by Andi Hoffman, associate professor in Exercise Science and Physical Education, the event is designed for students with orthopedic, visual and behavioral needs, who attend public, private, or home schools. The children in attendance came from Carroll, Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Frederick counties, as well as central Pennsylvania.

Tournament of Champions allows these young athletes to challenge themselves individually and achieve their best scores in 16 different events, including throwing for accuracy, hula hooping, scooter races, golfing, parachute activities, among others. All events are modified to meet the individual needs of the participants.

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Although he volunteered with Tournament of Champions in his freshman year because “a lot of the older guys on my lacrosse team said that it was a good time and it would be an excused absence from class,” senior Michael Marks of Ellicott City, Md., said he knew it was something that he would want to be involved in every year after attending the event for the first time, and, as he says, “for the right reasons.”

“Ever since I attended the event my freshman year, I have loved being able to help out the young participants,” Marks says. “During the Tournament of Champions, they are able to run and play with the endless amount of energy that every child has. But, my favorite thing about the event is actually talking with them and getting to know what they like or don’t like. I have also noticed that the McDaniel students who act as ‘Buddies’ tend to learn just as much from the young athletes, and are equally happy to have met the child.”

According to senior Anna Beaudry of Amherst, Mass., who has also been involved in the event all four years at McDaniel, “There are a million things to love about this event. You get to play games all day with the kids who love being here and you get to spend the day with your friends, teammates and peers while we all work together to create such a good day for the kids. This being my fourth year, I’ve loved being able to see kids come year after year and see how much they have learned and improved since the year before. They all remember us...”

This was the first time that sophomore Amanda Sickel of Silver Spring, Md., volunteered at Tournament of Champions and she said that her favorite part “was being able to see each of the athletes succeed at the events in their own way.” 

“I had so much fun,” exclaimed first-year student Casey Gardella of Bethesda, Md. “Playing with the little kids was awesome and you could tell how much they appreciated it. I love that you get buddies up with someone because you really get to know them through out the whole day.”

First-year students Sara Reynolds and William Fierstein both look forward to participating in the event again next year.

“The kids were so excited to be there and spend time with you,” says Reynolds of York, Pa. “They were thrilled with smiles from ear to ear. It is honestly a life changing experience to see children with disabilities overcome challenges and take on everything that was setup for them that day. The day was truly amazing and it is one I will never forget and I hope my buddy doesn't either.”

Fierstein of North Potomac, Md., added, “I felt the event has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done at McDaniel. Seeing how happy it made all of the kids in attendance really showed me that we were doing a really good thing for the community.”