Students are kicking, dancing and eating their way to healthier life styles as a part of Health and Fitness Awareness Week, sponsored by Yale Rotaract — a community and international service organization sponsored by Rotary International.
The week’s events, which began Monday and will conclude Saturday afternoon, offer the Yale community a diverse range of opportunities to learn about fitness and nutrition. Working with various sports, martial arts and dance groups on campus, Rotaract has organized daily workshops and demonstrations relating to physical and mental health. While the activities are free, participants are asked to donate $1 to benefit Special Olympics Connecticut.
“This is our big event of the semester,” Rotaract President Palmyra Geraki ’06 said.
Tuesday night eight students gathered in Dwight Chapel to participate in a disabilities awareness workshop which addressed dyslexia, Down’s syndrome, visual impairment, hearing impairment, attention deficit disorder and cerebral palsy. Students discussed disabilities etiquette and participated in various activities focused on understanding some of the difficulties disabled individuals face.
“One in five Americans has a disability,” Allison Polland ’07, vice president of Rotaract, said. “Just because you can’t see a disability doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.”
The workshop also featured guest speaker Michael DeMusis, a former Special Olympics medalist and part-time disc jockey for local AM radio station WYBC. DeMusis, who has cerebral palsy and mild mental retardation, said he does not allow his disability to prevent him from living a normal life.
He answered questions about living with a disability and described what he has accomplished despite his handicap.
“When I told [career counselors] that I wanted to be a radio DJ personality, they looked at me like I was crazy,” DeMusis said. “You’d be amazed by the power of positive thinking.”
Polland said she believes this week will help inspire non-athletes to maintain healthy lifestyles by staying active and exploring healthy food options.
“A lot of people come to school and forget that there are ways to work out other than being a varsity athlete,” Polland said.
Monday night, Rotaract members and the Saybrook Baking Society hosted “Healthy Delights” in the Saybrook College kitchen. Students made healthy snacks including apple crumble, fresh-fruit smoothies and other fruit-based desserts.
The activity’s goal was to show students healthy recipes containing fruit can be as sweet and satisfying as sugary and fattening alternatives, Geraki said.
Rotaract also hosted a cardio kickboxing workshop in Pierson College’s music room later that evening. Over a dozen students spent an hour learning basic kickboxing techniques from Rachel Stanton ’05, an instructor at Payne Whitney Gymnasium.
“The class went really well,” Stanton said. “Everyone had a lot of fun and got a good workout, but, more importantly, it raised awareness for a good cause.”
Organizers said they attempted to plan enjoyable and educational activities in order to attract student participation.
“We are trying to go for things that are really fun and to raise money for a good cause,” Rotaract member Rob Nelb ’08 said.
At 7 p.m. tonight, Rotaract members are sponsoring a massage workshop at Payne Whitney.
Thursday’s events include a TAPS workshop in Silliman College’s dance studio, a dumpling-making event at the Asian American Cultural Center and a screening of “Super Size Me,” a movie focused on the physical and financial cost of fast-food consumption in America.
Rotaract is sponsoring yoga and ballroom dancing workshops on Friday, as well as a fitness extravaganza on Cross Campus Saturday afternoon.