Student rallies organization to success
By Amy West
During the fall of 2014, alumnus Paul Hooker and College of Business student Luke Sims, kicked off RallyCap Sports, a student organization designed to help people with special needs participate in recreational activities.
One year later, RallyCap Sports is far exceeding the expectations of Hooker and Sims and is serving as a prototype for universities across the country.
“I can’t explain how amazing it feels to be part of an organization that creates such a positive impact on families in the surrounding communities," said Kelly Faeth, volunteer coordination chair for RallyCap. "Our participants are excited to be a part of a team, parents are thrilled to watch their children participate in sporting activities and the BGSU RallyCap team has become a second family to me. It’s unbelievable to see students racing to volunteer their time. I never imagined this small group of people could touch so many lives."
Sims graduated in May and is working full-time for RallyCap Sports focusing on rolling out the program at universities throughout the country. His successor, Melissa Wilson, is taking RallyCap Sports to the next level at BGSU.
“Melissa has taken this program and run with it. She has far exceeded my expectations. Due to her hard work and forward thinking, RallyCap Sports is a huge success at BGSU,” Hooker stated. “Melissa has not only increased the number of participants, the number of volunteers and overall RallyCap awareness, she has created a family within BGSU that feels as passionate about this program as I do.”
Wilson, a junior majoring in dual intervention services and a veteran Special Olympics coach, learned about RallyCap last year and was hooked. Sims and Wilson hit it off immediately.
“When I met Melissa I knew that she was the perfect fit for RallyCap Sports. She had experience working with people with special needs, ambition and a forward thinking mindset that was critical in leading a brand new student organization to success during its second year,” Sims said.
After volunteering and helping Sims with the educational side of the program, Wilson decided to run for the 2015-16 RallyCap Sports Core Team and was chosen as the director.
She didn’t miss a beat, taking over an organization comprised of four chairs and 15 members. She immediately organized a planning retreat where the core team spent an afternoon brainstorming.
Wilson also spoke to several hundred students at “Get with the Program,” an event for freshmen inclusive/early childhood intervention specialists. She organized the first appearance at Campus Fest and spoke at the first "Rally in the Alley," an upbeat, glow in the dark information meeting in the Union Oval introducing the RallyCap Core Team and the organization’s mission.
After Wilson’s ambitious first few weeks at the helm, RallyCap Sports welcomed 25 participants and 95 volunteers to their kickoff event. The organization ran a successful soccer season and capped off the semester with a "Boo Bash."
“'Boo Bash' was RallyCap’s first dance and the team spent a lot of time planning this celebration," said Wilson. "We had games, decorations, pumpkin painting, mummy wrapping, dancing, cookies and snacks. The core team dressed up as Minions. We had to cap the volunteers after 10 minutes because we had reached our limit. That was the moment the RallyCore realized the impact of the organization. We were really doing something impactful to the community.
“Some of the participants belong to similar organizations such as Ice Frogs, an adaptive hockey league, and Gliding Stars, an adaptive ice skating league. Our core team attends other organization’s events to cheer on our participants. This has allowed us to build relationships with families and network with other organizations. We all have the same mission; and if we can work together and help each other, it only makes each of our organizations stronger.”
Wilson spent hours researching and creating contact lists to distribute information about RallyCap Sports and before long, her phone began ringing. Wilson found herself fielding daily phone calls from people wanting to help. There were 34 participants for basketball season and volunteers had to be capped once again.
“I'll never forget week three of basketball season. One of our legally blind participants scored a basket on a nine-foot hoop during our showcase event. With the biggest smile on his face and his mother chanting under the net to help him with direction, he made the basket. I've never seen a crowd go crazier. The other participants and volunteers roared with excitement while parents gave him a standing ovation. I cried. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life,” Wilson admitted.
During basketball season, Wilson asked one of the participants if she was ready for trophy day, but the participant didn’t understand the concept of a trophy. Wilson explained and on trophy day, the participant came up and squeezed Wilson’s hands and told her she loved her.
Not only has Wilson increased participation, volunteer numbers and awareness, she has also raised money. The team held “RallySpike,” a glow in the dark beach volleyball fundraiser. Wilson and the team also volunteered to work the concession stand at the BGSU vs. University of Toledo football game and the RallyCap Core Team worked a booth during the Apraxia Awareness walk at the Toledo Zoo where they distributed information.
Other student organizations are also stepping up to help. The College of Business American Marketing Association and the BGSU Interfraternity Council both chose RallyCap Sports as their annual philanthropy. A group named "Player One" from The College of Business class "Leading for Success," chose RallyCap Sports as their charity for a class project, earning the group a donation from their fundraising efforts.
RallyCap Sports finished out the semester with Winter Wonderland where participants built snowmen, made crafts, played games, decorated cookies and enjoyed a photo booth. Instead of Minions, the core team showed up decked out as elves.
“The core is amazing. We are all so different and involved with different things, but I think that is why RallyCap has spread like wildfire between us. Last year, we barely knew each other; and now we spend our free time together and are like family,” Wilson said.
To learn more about RallyCap Sports, visit the BGSU RallyChapter website.