High school students provide extra boost for local Special Olympians
There were a million after-school activities Nicholas Rodgers and five of his Plymouth High School Class of 2025 classmates could have been doing on a recent cool, drizzly Monday afternoon than providing an enthusiastic boost to members of the Plymouth-Canton Stars Special Olympics track-and-field team.
But there they were on the athletic field behind Canton’s Liberty Middle School during a Stars practice session, supporting the special athletes with smiles on their faces and giving in their hearts.
The six Plymouth sophomores will be part of a contingent of at least 18 Class of 2025 student council members — along with co-advisors/counselors Derek Hoffman and Kelly Fuzetti — who will be in attendance at Friday’s Area 23 Special Olympics Track & Field event at Livonia Franklin, cheering on the Stars.
“I think it’s important to get involved in the community and doing what I can to make a difference,” said Rodgers. “We need to learn to appreciate people for who they are.”
Uplifting show of support
Plymouth sophomore Ben Vugdalic said he’s excited for the chance to cheer on the Special Olympians at Friday’s competition.
“I thought it would be cool to show my support because you can tell how much they appreciate it,” said Vugdalic.
After the Special Olympians completed a warm-up walk around the Liberty track, athlete Max Robertson proved Vugdalic prophetic as he approached several of the volunteers with a broad smile and vigorously shook their hands.
Moments later, the high school volunteers provided an enthusiastic listening ear to Special Olympics veteran Michael Tallon as he recounted his past successes in local events.
Hoffman first volunteered with the Michigan Special Olympics during his days as a student at Central Michigan University, where the non-profit organization is based.
“My first experience working with Special Olympics athletes was as a coach for a basketball team,” Hoffman shared.
“It was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You’re working with individuals with different skill levels and ages. My point guard was 18 years old and my power forward was 55. It was an absolute blast.”
Fulfilling volunteer opportunities
Members of the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park student councils are asked to volunteer for at least one event in addition to holding fund-raisers.
“Last year we came into the school on an off day and cleaned classrooms — scrubbed the desks, things like that,” Hoffman said. “This year I thought it would be beneficial for the students to work with the Special Olympics and they embraced the idea right away.”
As raindrops fell intermittently from a gray sky Monday and members of the Stars converged on the Liberty track, Rodgers excitement level grew.
“Doing things like this obviously looks good when you apply for college, but that’s not why I’m here,” he said. “I just love volunteering.”
To learn more about how to become a Special Olympics volunteer, click here.
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