Story by Madalyn Watson | Reporter, Video by Kennedy Dendy | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor Helping Hands and the Special Olympics volunteers held a “Super Dance” on Friday in Russell Gym.
Huntsville senior Taylor Ernst, the president and founder of Baylor Helping Hands, was breaking it down on the dance floor and dancing with the kids.
“We’re doing our second annual fall dance for kids with special needs, and we’re just stoked to be here,” Ernst said. “We have have free Shorty’s Pizza on top of a free DJ, all the families are invited to come out free of charge and honestly, it’s just a night full of dancing.”
Ernst said he spread the word about the dance within the Baylor community and found volunteers outside of the members of the Baylor Helping Hands.
“That’s what’s so cool about the Baylor community and fraternities and sororities — I’ll send out a couple of texts, and I go talk at a couple of sorority meetings, and just the amount of people that care and want to come out and support us is honestly just amazing,” Ernst said. “So just through word of mouth and people’s generosity, everyone decided to show up.”
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., senior Sarah Kelliher, vice president of Baylor Helping Hands, said she enjoyed the night while taking photographs of people dancing and posing by the superhero themed decorations.
“We had a lot more volunteers this year,” Kelliher said. “We had a pretty good turnout last year and this year. Whoever shows up, we really just want to make it all about the kids and just have a good time with them.”
Kelliher said the funding for the dance came from donations raised through their social media presence.
“The people of Special Olympics help us get the decorations and get the food, send the invitations out, [and] we kind of just give them the location and the people to enjoy their time,” Kelliher said.
Volunteers with the Special Olympics work with the students in Baylor Helping Hands to plan the dance and make sure the guests are having a fun time dancing.
Kate Kassal was one of the volunteers for the Special Olympics helping out with the dance.
“Everyone’s work for the Special Olympics really brings the community together and helps bring a community that’s marginalized and sometimes more pushed towards the edge of society upfront and really celebrates them,” Kassal said. “It kind of just brings our community together as a whole.”
A normal day of volunteering at the Special Olympics for Kassal is acting as a referee or helping with game rules during practices for sports like flag football, softball and basketball.
“At least for me [while] volunteering, I feel like I am doing something for the people I am volunteering for, but I feel like I learn a lot more from them — and they give more to me than I’ll ever be able to give back to them,” Kassal said. “Special Olympics and Special Olympics athletes, they just have such an amazing outlook on life that I feel a like a lot of just everyday people don’t necessarily have. They’re just super positive and joyful.”