Participants from all walks of life came together Sunday morning to celebrate diversity and inclusion at the second annual Jeffny Pally Smile Mile.
The Jeffny Pally Smile Mile was established in 2017 as a one-mile walk/wheel to support the R-Word Campaign. The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness and eliminate uses of derogatory terms that negatively target individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
The event took place on campus at the Hugh S. Greer Field House. Participants were greeted by a committee of students from Community Outreach, as well as a warm and exciting welcome from two Special Olympics athletes who helped get the energy going before the mile began.
In addition to the walk, several activity and game stations were offered, including a craft table where participants could design a handprint to stick onto the giant “R” poster, which is a symbol of showing support toward using the word “respect” over the derogatory R-word, according to second-semester speech, language and hearing sciences major Annie Clark. “The [use of the] handprints were to get participants to personally interact with the issue and show their support in a fun way,” Clark said.
In addition to its purpose as a service project for the community, the Smile Mile is more personally tied to the UConn community in that it honors and remembers UConn student Jeffny Pally, who passed away last year.
Pally’s passion for this campaign, the Special Olympics and her desire to encourage inclusion and to make everyone feel special is what drives the committee and community to participate so enthusiastically, according to Program Director of Special Olympics Chris Tweeddale, a sixth-semester accounting major at UConn.
The Smile Mile is brought to life by a committee of students within UConn Community Outreach. The committee’s biggest job and goal is to recruit attendees and sponsors, according to Tweeddale.
Students of this committee work with other organizations including UConn Student Activities and Special Olympics CT, from where some of the guest speakers are invited, and some newer supporters like the UConn Pep Band, who provided entertainment for the participants this year.
The approximately 200 participants were sent off with the UConn cheer and the Huskies Fight Song, played by the band.
With the event in its second year, those involved continue to feel the excitement coming out of planning and hosting the event.
“I love everyone coming together to support one campaign to make everyone feel included. No one deserves to feel bad about themselves because of the use of one negative word,” said Tweeddale.
For Clark, the event serves as an opportunity to continue giving back to the Special Olympics, an organization that she was highly involved in in high school.
“[They] tell you that [Special Olympics] is the best sportsmanship you’ll ever see,” Clark said. “Everyone here is always so positive. There’s no room for negativity. It’s all about the experience, rather than who wins and who loses.”
The committee will be coming together once more this semester to host the Husky Classic, which is a soccer tournament also in support of the Special Olympics.
Lucille Littlefield is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.