UNMC Munroe Meyer Institute LEND Trainees Collaborate with Special Olympics Nebraska

March 16, 2023

University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) physical therapy students and Munroe Meyer Institute (MMI) LEND trainees, Caitlyn Bartholomew, MacKenzie Dehoff, and Samantha Granec, partnered with Special Olympics Nebraska for their LEND Community Learning and Leadership project this spring. They were involved with helping Special Olympics Nebraska (SONE) provide a variety of services to the community, their largest being a 6-week Young Athletes Camp* hosted at a local elementary school.

With the guidance of MMI physical therapist, Heidi Reelfs, and SONE Director of Health and Community Service Programs, Stephanie Sorenson, the students created the camp curriculum, recruited student volunteers, and lead camp activities each week. The camp had 25 3-5 year olds from the local Bellevue community with 25 volunteers from UNMC, Creighton, and St. Mary’s health professional programs and 4 MMI Physical Therapists. The camp was held for 45 minutes one night a week, for 6 weeks. Designing the camp curriculum involved creating inclusive, accessible, and adaptable stations for children with I/MD that intertwined gross motor skills and social interaction with peers. The largest barrier was keeping the campers engaged at each station for the duration of the camp, something the student leaders leaned on their volunteers for support with. The volunteers were a large part of the success of the camp as they worked hard to keep the campers’ attention and encourage motor development while also prioritizing fun and safety. At the conclusion of the camp, SONE provided each camper with a backpack of items to continue practicing the skills at home. The camp, a success for campers, parents, and volunteers alike, created an opportunity for Caitlyn, MacKenzie, and Samantha to pair their leadership skills with their clinical skills to support the local community - something they plan on continuing to practice after graduation. SONE and the MMI LEND program plan to continue hosting this camp each spring.

*Young Athletes is a nation-wide Special Olympics program aimed at engaging young school-age children in sport and play with a focus on motor skills development.