On May 13, Hawiian-themed music echoed through the halls of the Oscar A. Kirkham Building, as student and community members with special needs danced together as friends.
Sara Cannarella, special needs coordinator for the event and a junior studying special education, said they try to hold events like this on a regular basis.
“We have a dance, or a fun run, about once a month,” Cannarella said. “It’s just a really good way for us to get to know our friends and get them involved with all of the students, so that they feel comfortable and included with everything.”
Clemons said she got involved through other people and now participates weekly.
“I just found out about it through people, it sparked an interest, and I just started volunteering,” Clemons said.
Clemons said she thinks it is a great opportunity for everyone, even if a person has never had experience with special needs before.
“I think the more the merrier,” Clemons said. “There is always something for everyone. There is never too many people when it comes to these activities, because everyone contributes something.”
Cannarella also encourages students to come and help.
“It is just for anyone who wants to come,” Cannarella said. “We love getting volunteers and we love getting people involved and having people feel included, that is our big important thing. Anyone can come that wants to come and help out.“
Cannarella said there are various ways to get involved.
“We are always looking for volunteers; we can never have too many volunteers at these activities,” Cannarella said. “Usually, on a weekly basis, we have Hands, Life Skills, and Special Needs activity planning, and we all join in to organize events.”
Cannarella said there are three main groups that students can help with.
“The activity planning basically plans the different events to a T,” Cannarella said. “They organize the fun runs and the dances, and they do everything from decorations and food planning, to music.”
Hands is another group Cannarella said students could get involved with.
“Hands is like an art class that we have with our friends, so it’s a little bit more interactive,” Cannarella said. “It gives the students a chance to meet up and just have fun with our friends.”
Life Skills is also a way to help the individuals with special needs in the community.
“This special needs program helps develop life skills that would be useful for those with special needs,” according to the BYU-Idaho website. “Through these experiences, we encourage personal growth and learning in a constructive environment.
Cannarella said she sees the activities as an opportunity to serve others.
“I love to work with them so much,” Cannarella said. “It is a really great way to serve, and just to make yourself more Christ-like. It makes their day too, they get so excited about everything, and when they see familiar faces, they just love making friends.“
Clemons said one of her favorite memories volunteering was at one of these events.
“Last year, we were all just dancing in this circle, and there was a little boy who just came and joined our circle and just started smiling and dancing” Clemons said. “His parents later came up to us and told us that he didn’t usually smile like that.”
Clemons said she sees a positive impact on everyone that gets involved, including herself.
“Their faces just light up, honestly,” Clemons said. “We really try to bring life to everyone, and make everyone feel happy and special, because they are. They’re just like us. “