Rider University graduate student planned the event
Kristine A. Brown

Children ranging from elementary to high school were all smiles as they headed into Rider’s Student Recreation Center on Nov. 1.

After months of planning a Fall Schools’ Sports Expo for more than 80 student athletes who participate in Special Olympics New Jersey’s Get Into Our Game program, Rider University’s Brandon Feinstein was more than a little frustrated when Mother Nature couldn’t cooperate with a sunny day. But despite rainy weather, the children ranging from elementary to high school were all smiles as they headed into Rider’s Student Recreation Center on Nov. 1 to participate in a day of fun and exercise.

Feinstein, a graduate assistant for Recreation Programs at Rider, began planning this event last summer, after he was approached by Special Olympics New Jersey to have his Emerging Leaders class take on the Expo as a project. Special Olympics New Jersey is a not-for-profit organization that provides sports training and athletic competition to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Get Into Our Game program is a school-based sports skills development program created by Special Olympics New Jersey to make sports accessible to all students in New Jersey, regardless of their ability.

Upon arrival to Rider’s campus, the student athletes were divided among three sports stations. The first — a golf station — was manned by staff of the PGA Tour. Students learned a proper golf stance, how to hold a golf club and chip off a tee. At the second station, groups of students learned soccer skills, while the third station featured some competitive (but friendly) games of flag football.

Dianna Clauss, assistant director of Campus Life and Recreation Programs at Rider, said the idea for the event was all Feinstein’s, who worked tirelessly to put every final detail of the day together. “This was an excellent event, to Brandon’s credit,” she said. “The children had a lot of fun, and learned some athletic skills along the way. We are very proud of Rider’s partnership with Special Olympics New Jersey.”

Kalee Baker, Education and Outreach manager for Special Olympics New Jersey, said, “We want to thank Brandon, the students in his Emerging Leaders class and Rider University for hosting and helping us plan this event. Thanks to their efforts, this was the largest and most dynamic Fall Schools’ Sports Expo that we’ve ever had.”

In addition to the activities taking place on campus, another group of Rider freshman from the Emerging Leaders program traveled to the Special Olympics New Jersey Sports Complex in Lawrenceville to host similar athletic activities for 18 participants in the Young Athletes program.

Rider’s Emerging Leaders program is designed for first-year students who have a history of leadership skills or would like to obtain them. These students participate in a variety of activities throughout their first year on campus as a means of developing their skills. The goal of the program is to “graduate” the students into a student leadership position that most closely aligns to their interests or majors.

Next June, the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games will be hosted in New Jersey. Sports competition will be held at venues throughout Mercer County, including at Rider University. The 270 athletes chosen to represent Team New Jersey will participate in spectacular special events and athletic competitions. For more information, visit www.sonj.org.