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Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Commends Five Clarkson Physical Therapy Grads For Special Olympics Work

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Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has recognized five of this year’s Clarkson University Master of Physical Therapy graduates for their volunteer efforts at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games held last month in Dublin, Ireland.

A representative from the senator’s regional office presented letters of commendation from Sen. Clinton to Rebecca Collins and Laura Mandell of Potsdam, Heidi McCarthy of Milford, N.Y., and Amy Morgan of Niskayuna, N.Y., at a recognition ceremony held today on the Clarkson campus. Sara West of Conway, Mass., was unable to attend today’s ceremony, and will receive her letter at a later date. clintoncitations

Sen. Clinton’s letters recognized the graduates’ “outstanding efforts as volunteers.” She cited, in particular, their important role as health care ambassadors for the U.S. “All New Yorkers can be proud of your volunteer service in the medical assistance area and for your generosity and goodwill at the Olympics.”

“We are gratified that Senator Clinton recognizes the value of our graduates’ contributions and the importance of volunteerism,” said Prof. Samuel B. Feitelberg, associate dean of Health Sciences and chair of Physical Therapy. “This was an outstanding example of a service learning project that not only benefited our graduates but the athletes they assisted.”

“By volunteering at this event, our students put to work what they learned about treatment and prevention of sports injuries and applied it to a unique population of athletes. It was a tremendous commitment and undertaking and one that was entirely conceived and carried out by the students themselves,” continued Feitelberg.

At the international competition, the Clarkson graduates made up five of only six U.S. volunteers who were part of the international team of volunteer physical therapists who took part in the FUNfitness Campaign. The campaign provided on-site health screenings that evaluated each athlete’s flexibility, strength and balance and were part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative, a program designed to assist and educate Special Olympics athletes to improve health and fitness.

FUNfitness screening assessments included hamstring flexibility, calf muscle flexibility, hip flexor tightness, functional shoulder rotation, balance and more. The screenings helped determine an athlete’s conditioning at the games, and also provided educational information on the importance of stretching and strengthening with diagrams and instructions on exercises.

The Clarkson alumnae quickly discovered that by assisting and educating others to improve health and fitness, they were learning important lessons too.

“During our screenings we interacted with athletes from over 160 countries who spoke many different languages, but that did not create any barrier to communication,” explained Laura Mandell. “Hand signals and smiles were as effective as words.

“These were such special people. My experience in Dublin has definitely affected me personally and altered my professional aspirations. I have already signed up to volunteer at the 2005 games in Nagano, Japan, and I am hoping to become involved with the local St. Lawrence County chapter in a coaching role.”

The Clarkson graduates’ interest in volunteering at the games was sparked by Sara West and Heidi McCarthy. As part of a professional issues class assignment, the two students brought in the October 2001 issue of PT Magazine that included an article highlighting the benefits and rewards of physical therapists volunteering for the Special Olympics.

West had been a counselor for five years at Camp Loyaltown, a camp for children and adults with developmental disabilities located in Hunter, N.Y., and the idea of participating in the Special Olympics particularly interested her. Inspired, and with Feitelberg’s encouragement, the class began making plans to volunteer for the 2003 World Summer Games and to devise strategies for fundraising.

Their primary fundraising activity was “Brittany’s Knee Injury,” an educational program created by Feitelberg and funded through a grant from the Northern New York State Area Health Education Center.

“Brittany’s Knee Injury” is a Problem-Based Learning experience for local high school students that allows them to learn about physical therapy. The 2003 graduates organized and taught 75 students from local communities over four Saturdays in the spring of 2002.  The volunteers themselves paid the remainder of the costs.

“I feel highly honored to receive this citation,” added Mandell. “But participating in the Special Olympics was the real honor. This great event brings people together from all over the world and shatters societal misconceptions about people who are mentally and physically challenged.  It has certainly changed the way I see individuals with special needs and I feel privileged to have been able to participate.”

Photo caption: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has recognized five of this year’s Clarkson University Master of Physical Therapy graduates for their volunteer efforts at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Susan Merrell (left), North Country Regional Director for Senator Clinton,  presented letters of commendation from Sen. Clinton to (left to right) Laura Mandell, Rebecca Collins, Heidi McCarthy and Amy Morgan. Prof. Samuel B. Feitelberg (right), associate dean of Health Sciences and chair of Physical Therapy, looks on. Sara West was unable to attend the ceremony.
[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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