Play ball: Premed alliance offers sports events for special needs individuals

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You wouldn’t guess it by looking at some of them as they made basket after basket that these individuals have special needs. 

Individuals with special needs from across the spectrum gathered in the Student Activities Center Saturday for a sporting event organized by Dixie State University’s Premedical Alliance.

The alliance organizes these events monthly, and the activities include baseball, golf, soccer, basketball and dodgeball. A luncheon is also provided to attendees.

Parents and caretakers of the individuals with special needs who participated in the game sat on the sidelines, and, for St. George resident Aimee Bonham, these events are just what her 13-year-old son Billy needs to release his energy.

“For children with special needs, [playing sports] seems to be a bit more taxing on you, even emotionally,” Bonham said. “I think [the sports weekends] are a great thing for the community.”

Bonham heard about the event through her son’s special needs mutual program through their church. Her son has a rare disease, and she said it’s interesting to see how he interacts with others with special needs because she didn’t know his diagnosis until about a year ago.

“As a parent, that was very difficult because we didn’t even know if he was special,” she said.

Mikayla Stokes, a junior biology major from Wrangell, Alaska, and president of the DPMA, said the special needs sports weekends provide value to the community and DSU students in multiple ways.

In addition to gaining community service hours for their medical school applications, members of the DPMA gain experience caring for individuals with special needs through these events.

“It gives us another insight,” Stokes said. “I know that, as someone wanting to be a physician, it will benefit me to know how to interact and care for those with special needs.” 

Doug Sainsbury, DPMA’s club adviser and program adviser for the biology department, said DMPA members serve as ambassadors for DSU when they participate in the special needs sports weekend.

“[The students] provide a unique, and usually unfulfilled, opportunity for the special needs community members to learn and play different sports,” Sainsbury said.

Stokes said she’s received lots of positive feedback from the community, and the club plans to organize a golf event next month. Bonham said her family is looking forward to that event in particular. 

“Billy is a great golfer,” she said.

Bonham said she wishes there were more events like this because oftentimes, if a family isn’t directly involved in a special needs organization, they may not hear about services or events available to them. 

Events like these help students build long-lasting relationships in the community, Stokes said. 

“I have met so many people in the special needs community who I see around at other events, so I think building that long-lasting connection with people is good,” Stokes said.