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05-16-2014

Clarkson University Physical Therapy Students Volunteers of the Year at Special Olympics

Clarkson University's physical therapy students received the Volunteers of the Year award for their assistance at the Special Olympics New York North Country Region annual Summer Games held May 3 at SUNY Canton.

Front row (left to right): Megan Pollak, Teri Prashek, Shea Evans, Natalie Stoddart, Katie McGonigle, Claire Sweeney, Shannon Harmon, Amy Brower, and Emily DeVito. Back row: Britni Keitz, Srishti Bajaj, Sarah Gutenmann, Michael Cooper, David Kreus, and Andrew Boyea. Volunteers who participated, but were not in the photo: Mostafa Khoubiyari, Yousef Hassan, Crystal Lawton, Robert Gilles, and Clare Sheldon.The doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students have volunteered at the games for about five years, notes department chair Associate Professor George Fulk. The three-year DPT program combines academic study with clinical rotations and community activities such as this. The tradition is that second-year students recruit the first-year students, so there's a mix of experienced and fresh volunteers.

“This is a good experience because they get to give back to the community and interact with people who might be clients someday. On top of it all, the students have a good time,” says Fulk.

“I'm originally from Armada, Mich., and I wanted more ways to volunteer here. I really enjoyed it,” says Britni Keitz. “It felt great cheering on the athletes.”

Her classmate Shannon Harmon of Henderson, N.Y., agrees, saying, “It was an awesome experience for all of us. We could put ourselves out there as leaders, as PTs, and advocates for community health and wellness. It was very rewarding to participate.”

Nearly 200 athletes from all over the state took part in the games, which included a surprise visit from Team USA Winter Olympians Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., who earned the first-ever American medal in singles luge; Christopher Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y., Sochi Team USA luge; and Annelies Cook of Saranac Lake, Sochi Team USA biathalon.

Student David Kreus of Phoenix, Ariz., organized Clarkson's participation with help from Sarah Gutenmann and Katie McGonigle. They worked to spread the word and doubled last year's number of volunteers.

“It gets a little hectic at times but it's well worth it,” says Kreus. “Dr. Fulk started this tradition, and we're passing it onto those below us. It's nice.”

Claire Sweeney is delighted that she got to participate.

“All the teams come out in a flag parade at the beginning. Emotions are high,” she says. “I'd definitely volunteer again.”

Michael Cooper of Dayton, Iowa, is enthusiastic as well. “It was overall a great opportunity for all the participants, families, friends, and everyone in general," he says. "It was a good day.”

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University's physical therapy students received the Volunteers of the Year award for their assistance at the Special Olympics New York North Country Region annual Summer Games. Front row (left to right): Megan Pollak, Teri Prashek, Shea Evans, Natalie Stoddart, Katie McGonigle, Claire Sweeney, Shannon Harmon, Amy Brower, and Emily DeVito. Back row: Britni Keitz, Srishti Bajaj, Sarah Gutenmann, Michael Cooper, David Kreus, and Andrew Boyea. Volunteers who participated, but were not in the photo: Mostafa Khoubiyari, Yousef Hassan, Crystal Lawton, Robert Gilles, and Clare Sheldon.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/dpt-special-olympics.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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