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Nursing students ensure “healthy athletes” at Special Olympics

bone density check
Senior nursing student Abby Morrissey of West Caldwell, N.J. screened athletes with a bone density machine that was new this year for the Healthy Athletes Health Promotions program.


November 5th wasn’t just another gorgeous fall Saturday on Villanova’s campus. It was a significant one for student volunteers from the College of Nursing and a large contingent of talented athletes from across the state. The students welcomed to campus the participants of the 23rd Annual Special Olympics PA Fall Festival, the largest student-run Special Olympics competition in the world. Approximately 1,325 coaches and athletes representing more than 30 Pennsylvania counties participated in bocce, long distance running/walking, power lifting, roller skating, soccer and volleyball.

Not only could athletes compete in sporting events, but they could also access the 2011 Healthy Athletes Initiative chaired by senior nursing student Brittany Bennett of Shrewsbury, N.J. She coordinated sponsors; student, faculty and other volunteers; and countless details.

Held in Bartley Hall, Healthy Athletes was an opportunity for every athlete to partake in free health screenings and receive free health information to improve their health and well-being. Nursing faculty Suzanne Zamerowski, PhD, RN and Kathy Reynolds, MSN, RN, PNP along with adjunct faculty Misty Conlan, MSN, RN and Judy Fenton, MSN, RN supervised their clinical groups totaling 30 nursing students who were part of the Healthy Athletes volunteers. This type of community-based clinical experience, including populations of intellectually challenged children and adults, is being incorporated more frequently into clinical placements for the students.

In the Healthy Athletes Health Promotion clinic, the nursing students assisted with blood pressures, height and weight, bone density screening, and health education on topics such as nutrition, exercise and sun safety for the athletes. They screened over 150 athletes. Brittany reports, “The reviews I received from the heads of Special Olympics were fantastic.  The nursing students did a great job working with Health Promotions, and I think they really enjoyed it!”

Nursing students also assisted with other aspects of this major event. For instance, fellow senior Kerry Schindler from Northport, N.Y., who like Brittany has volunteered with Special Olympics for four years, was the Director of Special Events, one of six directors who organized and ran Fall Festival. She led five committees, including the Awards, Ceremonies, Entertainment, Fundraising, and Healthy Athletes committees. 

Healthy Athletes
Caite Cutler checks the blood pressure of a Special Olympics athlete.