Day Scholar Katelyn Dagen ’15 Provides Leadership To Inaugural Special Olympics Camp Held at Rhodes

From July 8-12, athletes and volunteers attended the inaugural Lynx Summer Camp for Special Olympics of Greater Memphis, which was organized by Rhodes rising junior Katelyn Dagen of Millington, Tenn. The day camp was supported by Rhodes’ Clarence Day Scholarship Program, which requires students to complete a service, research or internship activity in addition to meeting Rhodes’ rigorous academic standards.

“I was introduced to Special Olympics of Greater Memphis my first semester at Rhodes through a program called Lynx Club, which was started in 2010 by Rhodes student Brenna O’Sullivan ’14,” says Dagen. “Lynx Club takes place every Thursday night in the gym on campus where a group of Rhodes volunteers and about 20 to 30 Special Olympics athletes meet for a night of unified recreational sports practices and scrimmages. Rhodes students also hit the dance floor at the quarterly Special Olympics of Greater Memphis parties and plan social events with the athletes.”

Dagen adds that after two years of involvement with Lynx Club and Special Olympics of Greater Memphis, it was easy to select Special Olympics as the organization to benefit from her Day Scholarship Summer Project. “The only issue was deciding exactly what the project would entail. After discussing some ideas with the Special Olympics of Greater Memphis Director Lisa Taylor, we agreed that our athletes needed a summer camp. These athletes participate in sports training and competition throughout the entire year. We wanted to let them conclude the 2012-2013 athletic year with an opportunity to spend time with their teammates off the courts and fields. A camp seemed like the perfect avenue to promote the international Special Olympics values, along with team-building, education about the city they call home, and personal development.” 

The Lynx Summer Camp kicked off with team-building activities led by BRIDGES. The second day of the camp was dubbed Memphis Day, and campers took fieldtrips to Mud Island and the Stax Museum. The next day focused on animal education, and included a trip to the Memphis Zoo, which is located across the street from the Rhodes campus. On Health and Wellness Day (fourth day), campers participated in Yoga and a dental hygiene presentation given by two fourth-year dental students from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The Lynx Summer Camp concluded with a fun day of group activities and a carnival in the Rollow Avenue of Oaks on the Rhodes campus.

Says Dagen,“Every day, we held welcome ceremonies in Rhodes’ Blount Auditorium. An athlete led the group in the Special Olympics Oath, we had opening games, and everyone got on his or her feet for a few “pump up songs.” Individual awards such as “Most Enthusiastic” and “Most Courageous” also were presented at the end of the week. 

According to its mission, Special Olympics of Greater Memphis provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. 

Although Rhodes opens its facilities and provides volunteers to Special Olympics of Greater Memphis throughout the year, Dagen says the Lynx Summer Camp “has allowed the athletes to further their relationships with their teammates, as well as develop new friendships with dedicated volunteers. The continuous support from Rhodes students, faculty and staff has made this campus a ‘home away from home’ for the athletes.” 

In addition, she hopes the camp becomes an annual event. “The support from Rhodes College and the City of Memphis has been unbelievable. I cannot think of a better environment for the event and the athletes. Additionally, both the volunteers and athletes are extremely thankful to Lisa Taylor, director of Special Olympics Greater Memphis, for guiding us through the process of developing a new program. She is the embodiment of selfless leadership.”