A Very Full ASB Day in Springfield
Reflection ritual: volunteers look back, and forward
In the slide show above, Mary Catherine Chase (CGS’10, CAS’12) shares impressions from her Alternative Spring Break trip to Missouri.
Close to midnight, 10 Boston University Alternative Spring Breaks volunteers stumble into a Missouri church. They’ve traveled more than 1,300 miles to work for a week at Champion Athletes of the Ozarks, an organization founded in 2002 by Susan Miles that teaches sports and life skills to people with developmental disabilities. At midweek, the experience already has left lasting impressions.
After a day of broomball, volleyball, and Frisbee — not to mention visiting Springfield’s Pro Bass Shop and taking in a late-night movie — the girls are exhausted. But before crawling into sleeping bags, they gather in a circle, brownies and milk in hand, for reflection.
At 22 years old, BU’s ASB program is steeped in tradition. Reflection is one of the oldest, and perhaps most meaningful, of the rituals. “Volunteers come together every night for an informal discussion of the day’s events,” says Erin Quinlan (SED’12). “We talk about our feelings, what went well, what didn’t.”
The form varies, from journaling to drawing. A popular pursuit is Roses and Thorns, an exercise where volunteers discuss the day’s high and low points. “It gives everyone a chance to unwind and contemplate,” says Tiffani Burks (SAR’12).
Marieljane Bastien (CAS’13): My rose would be getting to know everyone better and hanging out with Susan and the kids. My thorn was that I wish we had more time to hang out with the kids.
Helen Banach (CAS’12): My rose was during broomball when Lizzie scored the first goal for the yellow team. It was great to see someone who hadn’t played before get out there. My thorn was getting up at 6:30 in the morning to go running.
Quinlan: My rose was playing broomball. At one point one of the athletes fell, and someone else came over to help him up, and they were leaning on one another and coaxing each other. My thorn was when one of the athletes fell and hit her head on the ice.
Meghan Chura (SAR’12): I think I was the first person to fall during the game, and everyone ran over to help me, and then I saw Kelsey running by with the ball.
Bastien: Kelsey’s vicious. That’s all I’m going to say.
Kelsey Foley (CAS’12): I’m not vicious! I’m competitive.
Mary Catherine Chase (CGS’10, CAS’12): My rose would be getting to know David. He told me he goes to church and that he used to sing in the choir, so I asked him to sing, and he sang a song called “Rugged Cross.” My thorn is that I feel like there hasn’t been much one-on-one time with the athletes.
Foley: My thorn wasn’t a big deal. I woke up with a kink in my neck from sleeping on the floor. My rose happened during broomball when the yellow team was on offense and Austin had the ball. I yelled for him to pass it to me, and he said, “Here, Kelsey!”
Chura: My rose would be getting to know Jason during broomball. I stayed on offense with him, and while he was excited, he kept saying he was scared so I stayed with him for most of the game. He wanted to beat the yellow team, and then he got the last goal for the blue team to tie it up and he was really happy.
Jennifer Lui (CAS’13): My rose would also be playing broomball. I was surprised at how good the kids were. They were running faster than I was. I also liked going to the Bass Pro Shop, seeing turtles and the alligator and those giant fish. And I liked seeing The Princess and the Frog.
Bastien: For a dollar! Where else can you see a movie on the big screen for a dollar!
Foley: I liked seeing everyone dressed up in their fishing gear. I can’t believe we didn’t get kicked out of the store.
Michaela Lacy (ENG’13): There were a lot of good things about today. Broomball was cool, and I liked hanging out with David tonight and playing Frisbee with him and MC. MC didn’t realize it, but she was teaching me how to throw, too. I suck at Frisbee. My thorn would be something I overheard at the ice rink, and it kind of ruined my day. A guy who works at the rink said to another guy, “Ugh, why do we have to serve these kids?” I had to try really hard not to judge him.
Quinlan: That would have really upset me, too. I think it’s admirable that you tried so hard not to judge him. I don’t know if I would have been able to keep quiet if I’d overheard that.
Bastien: Here we are in the 21st century, and people still have these attitudes against people with developmental disabilities. But I still feel like we’re making a difference, because who knows — maybe that guy watched us playing broomball with the kids, and maybe he saw how much fun they were having and realized he was wrong.
Chura: Look at how much fun the athletes had with us during broomball. We made a difference today.
Bastien: I feel like the kids feed off of us. If we hadn’t been into it, I don’t think they would have gotten so into it.
Banach: Like when they were trash-talking in the beginning?
Bastien: My all-time favorite was from the kid who told the other team, “I’m going to do my best to attempt to beat you!” That was some nasty trash talk, right there! Yeah!
Burks: It was great to see the way the athletes attached themselves to us.
Bastien: The next time this happens, we should call Oprah.
Chase: Oprah would eat this up.
Bastien: I have a life-goal of meeting Oprah, and I’m just saying, if we sent her footage of this conversation, she would come.
Chase: You all know my brother has autism, and I’ve come to realize how lucky my family is. Susan told me that the divorce rate is really high among couples who have children with developmental disabilities, and my parents are not only together, they’re happy. I’m really thankful for their support.
Banach: I definitely think thankful is the word to sum up this trip. The whole experience has made me thankful for my family and my family’s health.
The song featured in the slide show above, “Fantastic Man,” was written and performed by Dallas Coleman, a Champion Athlete of the Ozarks. Listen to the full-length song here.
Read about other spring break initiatives from around the country and from previous years here.