Special Olympics return to SBU

By Kiley O’Donnell
Sports Assignment Editor

The Special Olympics and Women in Sports Day are programs that have incorporated every aspect of the St. Bonaventure University community for a number of years. With clinics and programs continuously being offered on campus, students and faculty are always hands on in reaching out to the community and making a difference in young boys’ and girls’ lives.

Dr. Paula Scraba, an education professor at Bonaventure, ran the Special Olympics and Women in Sports Day since 2007. She is responsible for the growth and development of these programs over the past few years.

“Back in 2007, Steve Watson wanted me to contact Neil Johnson (a Bona Alum) who is the head of the Special Olympics foundation in New York,” said Scraba. “He asked me to start clinics at Bonaventure because around us there were absolutely no programs. We then incorporated it into one of my coaching classes and made it a special topics course. It’s now a part of the university’s senior forum.”

Faculty within St. Bonaventure University wrote a grant for changing cultures through sports and began Unified Sports: Sports Leadership Skills for the Future. It includes athletes with or without disabilities participating on the same team to prompt social inclusion through shared competition experiences.

“Kids who would walk down the hallway with their heads down and eat alone in the cafeteria would start to socialize with other kids due to being a part of the same team,” said Scraba. “It has brought self-esteem to kids with disabilities and has brought better mentoring and awareness skills to those who don’t [have them].”

The Special Olympics at Bonaventure now spans from fourth grade to seniors in high school and involves over 250 athletes from Olean, Allegany, Hinsdale, Franklinville and Salamanca. Since it’s start in 2007, it has become a tradition within the Bona community that keeps growing year to year.

Different sports teams help out within the different clinics offered. For example, in April, the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be running a clinic.

“I can’t say enough about the Bona students and their participation,” said Scraba. “Now I teach two sections of senior forum class, each with 25-30 students. Each student has a different major, and they all help out in some way. JMC majors help with media, business majors help out with excel sheets, education majors develop lesson plans for the wellness program, sports studies majors direct the sports aspect of the games, and so on. Everybody on campus is somehow involved.”

Scraba is also very passionate about Women in Sports Day. The theme of celebrating the progress and ongoing efforts to support women and girls to have access to sports continues throughout the month of February.

Women in Sports Day took place worldwide on Feb. 1, the anniversary of legislation for Title IX. The Women’s Sports Foundation provides scholarships and grants to schools to promote physical activity for girls and women. Only 40 percent of high school girls are playing sports, leaving three-in-five girls out.

“Dr. Marybeth Miller, who used to be chair of the education department here, would run clinics. When I came back to Bonaventure in 2007, Bonaventure had not done anything since Miller left a couple years before. Sister Margaret Carney wanted to start up Women in Sports Day again. I started it and we are now up to 20 high schools and 500 middle and high school girls, and all of women’s sports on campus and some club sports help participate in running clinics,” said Scraba.

The clinics highly depend on Bonaventure’s students to donate lunches. Without the donation of 500 lunches, the clinics would not be possible.

Students can donate lunches through flex dollars, Bona Bucks and swipes off a regular meal plan.

“We could not do this if it wasn’t for the fact that Aramark allows us to donate lunches through students’ meal plans. We are dependent upon that aspect,” said Scraba. “Next to different counters where you can purchase food with your card, there will be a sign up sheet and you can fill it out and donate as many lunches as you want to. There will also be one at the library, bookstore and ticket office.”

Bonaventure will continuously host these programs for boys and girls within the local community throughout the remainder of the semester. All students and faculty are welcome to participate.

odonneke16@bonaventure.edu