The Community Outreach division at the University of Connecticut is partnering up with Special Olympics to host the third annual Jeffny Pally Smile Mile on Saturday, March 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hugh S. Greer Field House, according to program director Danielle Rubin.
Pally, 19, was a student who died in October 2016 after being struck by a UConn fire department vehicle in the early morning hours while she was leaning against the firehouse door.
The Smile Mile was established in 2017 as a one-mile walk/wheel around the fieldhouse with the purpose of raising awareness to causes Pally was passionate about, such as the campaign titled “spread the word to end the word,” which aims to cease the use of the r-word, given its derogatory nature toward people with intellectual disabilities.
When Pally was a student at UConn, she was part of Community Outreach and served as a Resident Assistant in Northwest Residence Halls.
“It was Jeffny’s dream to set up an event to include everyone, a day to celebrate friendship and inclusion,” Rubin said. “It became something done in her honor.”
Rubin said the campaign has since transitioned to be coined, “spread the word: inclusion.” It is focused on practicing acceptance for everyone, but specifically athletes who participate in the Special Olympics.
The mission of the Special Olympics is to “provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”
Rubin said she anticipates that the event will yield a high attendance of both students and athletes committed to remembering Pally and all she believed in. Last year, the event brought in 200 participants.
“I can say that we are excited about the outcome this year,” Rubin said. “We are really happy with the registration numbers we have so far. It is going to be a really fun morning.”
Rubin said she hopes the event will allow people to remember Pally’s legacy as well as recognize the work Special Olympics does every day for students.
“It is important to remember her [Pally] and her passion for Special Olympics because it is such an amazing organization,” Rubin said. “It is a day to remember that you need to include one another and realize how special everyone is.”
Students are welcome to attend the event and can register for free online at the classy.org website.
Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. They can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org