Day of Service Returns


Christine Stricker

Freshman Lily Gerbic smiles with senior Camila Mantilla as they sit down after Gerbic gave a speech at the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Maya Sagett, Features Editor

After three long years of hiatus, all of the Parkway high schools were finally able to bring back the beloved Day of Service. On October 24, 230 student-athletes within Special School District arrived on Stadium Drive to participate in the soccer tournament, carnival games, service projects, and overall a day filled with community and fun. With Sarah Hale and her class of Leadership students at the forefront, Central brought together an amazing day that was meaningful for so many people.

“I think it went really well, it was like starting back at square one and re-establishing it,” Hale said. “Even though we only had one grade level who had done Day of Service, and we’ve had new staff members since 2019, I think overall it was really successful.”

With a short planning period this year, the success of Day of Service overall was greater than anyone could have hoped for. Every junior and senior Ac Lab’s team full of excited buddies, mascots, and captains was able to bring the day together and make it a great success, after all of the hard work done by Hale and her crew of Seniors.

“It was crazy because I didn’t know we could do Day of Service until the week before we came to school,” Hale said. “Normally, this is a nine-month planning process that was done in two months, so it was expedited, and it was pushed a little bit later than we normally do, which I think worked out in our favor.”

Students gather around a service dog in one of the project rooms in the school. Upperclassmen within the theatre department had dressed up as Disney Characters. (Christine Stricker)

Day of Service wasn’t always what it is now, though. Hale, along with the support of the former Project Help coordinator Laura Michaels and the encouragement of building principal Tim McCarthy started this day nearly from the ground up to create the day of sports, leadership, and, of course, service that we’ve known and loved in Parkway since 2016.

“It originally was Special Olympics Day, so we only did Special Olympics and it was only for those who signed up, and they also had to pay $20,” Hale said. “I didn’t think that was fair, and the day is definitely something that all could benefit from, so I approached Dr. McCarthy with this idea of doing an all-school Day of Service, and 2016 was the first year of having it, and since then, the other four high schools adopted this day, as well.”

As with almost everything in the world over the past three years, Day of Service was not immune to the hardships of the pandemic. Sponsorships were a bit harder to track down, off-site service opportunities for the sophomores were less available, and less athletes than in the past were able to come to participate in the soccer tournament. However, Hale and her crew were able to seamlessly pull together an incredible day for everyone, despite the challenges they were faced with.

“The athlete number was down a little bit,” Hale said. “Normally we have over 300 and this year we had 230. Again, Covid is still a little bit a part of that, and Special School District is having a teacher shortage, so there weren’t as many athletes as normal, but it was great because it was a little more manageable with everybody learning how the day went, so that piece did look a little bit different.”

Juniors Connor Lander, Wilson Wujick, Celeste Escalante, Logan Applebaum, and Matt Mueller’s junior class Ac Lab prepares for activities for the day before Special School students arrive. (Christine Stricker)

Hale’s Leadership class of seniors, including Lauren Ormont and Dani Taylor, was a vital part of bringing Day of Service together. Even though not all of the previous off-site service opportunities were available, like going to a nursing home for sophomores, they worked tirelessly to get sponsors and other service activities like a speaker from Children’s Miracle Network, as well as numerous other important pieces of the day.

“We were involved in planning the event as well as getting sponsors to see if they would support the event by donating money and other things like toys,” Ormont said. “We were also in charge of designing the shirts for Day of Service, and making and sending out videos to be watched during Ac Lab.”

Thanks to the sponsors of Day of Service, even though they were harder to come by than in years past, the day was really able to come together in the way it did despite anything that came up during the planning process.

“It is an expensive day, so because everybody was affected by Covid, the sponsorships were a little bit challenging, and just the cost of everything has gone up,” Hale said. “The day of, it went pretty smoothly, though. There are always going to be hiccups, but it’s the bigger picture that we’re coming together to serve the community and that is our big takeaway from the day.”

Ahead of time, the Leadership class organized training for the team captains and buddies, they designed and packed t-shirts for everyone in the school, and made sure that everything went the way it was supposed to on the day of the event.

Students hand out awards in the carnival located in Gym A. Prizes were won amid activities such as mini golf, four square, and face painting. (Emma Li)

“Overall, we acted as a mediator between the players, the teachers, and staff, making sure that everything was coordinated for the day,” Taylor said. “We had to get to school at 6:45 a.m. to make sure everything was ready, we printed flyers and made sure every carnival game was proper. A lot led up to it, but I think we did it so successfully in such a short amount of time.”

“The day of, we each got different responsibilities,” Ormont said. “Dani and I were in charge of making sure that every field was going smoothly. Specifically, we stood at the beginning of the day and watched to make sure that every bus got there on time, and that the players got off and had their t-shirts. We were just checking that everything was going well at every location.”

After such a successful day, Hale is eternally grateful for all the help she got from sponsors, teachers, Stuco members, and especially her Leadership class that were able to make Day of Service what it was and bring back such a beloved day.

“I could not have done this without the Leadership class,” Hale said. “They were such a key role in this, in planning and managing everything, so I am forever in their debt for helping me. It just made the school year feel normal again and it was a really great way for our school to come together and create that bond with each other.”

The immense success of Day of Service was not only beneficial to the athletes, but to all of the buddies, mascots, and carnival game workers, who got to feel the beautiful effects that we were able to have on them. There’s something special about having this great opportunity to give back to our community, especially if it’s your own work being put into making it happen.

Special Olympics plays soccer on the field. (Ande McNew)

“Seeing everyone enjoy themselves, athletes and students, was my favorite part of the day,” Ormont said. “It was great just seeing all the hard work being put into action because it took weeks to plan, but then the day had finally come and it was so great.”

“It is my Superbowl of the year,” Hale said. “It’s my pride and joy and it’s an opportunity for all of us to get to experience the same day and to give back to the greater community, and for kids to take leadership roles, and have that opportunity. It really was amazing.”