More than 300 University of Connecticut students filled the track inside the Hugh S. Greer Field House on Saturday as part of the fourth-annual Jeffny Pally Smile Mile.
The event is named in honor of UConn sophomore Jeffny Pally, who helped organize the first ever “Smile Mile” four years ago but died tragically before it occurred. The current Smile Mile, organized by the UConn Special Olympics committee, is described as a “one-mile walk/wheel” to raise money for Special Olympics Connecticut and bring awareness to the organization’s “spread the word to end the word” campaign against derogatory language.
This year’s Smile Mile held unique significance to both the event’s organizers and the members of the Pally family present.
“Jeffny’s class graduated last year and that was a very special moment for my family,” Jenny Pally, Jeffny’s older sister, said to the crowd. “To come out this year and see the support from people that may not have gone to school with Jeffny is amazing.”
Following the opening ceremonies, students clad in coral Smile Mile T-shirts walked the eight laps constituting a mile around the field house track, spurred on by members of the UConn Band. Lawn games, bracelet-making stations and complimentary snacks awaited them when they finished.
“This is a day to smile, talk to someone you don’t know, and support a great cause,” Special Olympics Program Director Danielle Rubin said.
Rubin, an eighth-semester speech language and hearing sciences major, has been involved with the UConn Special Olympics Committee since her freshman year. She believes the Smile Mile’s turnout this year is evidence that Jeffny Pally’s message of inclusion will continue to resonate with students.
“Many of her friends graduated last year so to have such a large amount of people come out this year is really something special,” Rubin said. “I think it truly means that people are coming with the goal of inclusion and they understand that Special Olympics is a great organization dedicated to including everybody.”
Joel Pally, Jeffny’s older brother, has attended the event every year since its inception.
“We were really blessed that Jeffny was someone who was so focused on making an impact on the community and improving the lives of other people and it feels really good to see the community returning the favor,” he said. “To see that her message of inclusion still resonates with people who never met her is really heartening.”
According to the event’s website, this year’s smile mile raised over $1,300 for Special Olympics Connecticut. Later this semester, the Special Olympics Committee will be hosting their 14th annual Husky Classic Soccer Tournament.
Nick Smith is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.