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Waukee APEX student associates were busy last month planning fall-themed events for numerous partners. For one of these events, our Exploration of Exercise and Sport Science student associates partnered with Train to Inspire to plan a Halloween party. The mission of Train to Inspire is to give people with disabilities access to the same opportunities and experiences as others have access to. For this project, Waukee APEX associates Rhadika Sharma, Lynnsey Dickson, and Maurel Lucile built an event from scratch. For the event, they planned five different fall-themed activities. Attendees had the option of participating in pumpkin bowling, mummy wrapping, a witch ring toss, coloring, or pumpkin painting and carving. In addition, the team reached out to local businesses to get donations for food, drinks, and craft supplies.  Rhadika Sharma explains, “A challenge for us was modifying the activities for the population that this event was serving. Most of our participants have disabilities, and some had never even carved or painted a pumpkin before. Some hadn’t created their own foods before. Keeping all of this in mind, we knew that we needed to create something that would be fun for everyone.”

The event was held on a Saturday at a farm in central Iowa. Nearly 40 individuals with disabilities came, many attending with family members. There were success stories of participants carving a pumpkin for the first time in their life, or doing a ring toss game with friends and family. Some came with friends, while others made friends. As the student associates reflected on the day, they were able to feel a sense of pride in what they planned. Rhadika shared, “I gained knowledge about helping populations that aren’t quite as capable as the rest. It was difficult planning and modifying activities for the levels of capabilities of everyone, but it was also fun to try and challenge ourselves to figure out new ways to carve or paint a pumpkin. One main thing I took away from this was that most people generalize communities into two groups: disabled, and normal. But in reality, there is no normal. The community that we served was just as ‘normal’ as those who do not have a disability. We all have different abilities and ways of doing things, but that makes us diverse.”

Although this was a new project for Waukee APEX, it is not the first time that Waukee APEX has partnered with the Train to Inspire program. Tracy Keninger works closely with the Train to Inspire program. She shared her appreciation, “Working with Waukee APEX was a great experience and we hope to continue to collaborate with Waukee APEX to plan future events that impact the lives of Iowans with disabilities.” As for the Waukee APEX team of associates, they wouldn’t be opposed to organizing a similar event again. Rhadika reflects on the experience by stating that, “I felt so proud of my team for planning something that could bring so many people so much joy. Seeing all the smiles on the participants’ faces made me feel like I really made a difference in their lives.”