Game Changers

JMU Holds Second Adaptive Sports Day

Posted: February 10, 2014

Lena Campbell, 21, (right) of Hinton, and Aly Truesdale, 22, a James Madison University student volunteer, play sitting volleyball at Saturday’s Adaptive Sports Day in Godwin Hall. The event aims to show participants with disabilities they can fit in on a college campus and playing field as well as other students. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Daniel Barnhart, 19, an EMU sophomore from Grottoes with cerebral palsy, works out Saturday at JMU’s Adaptive Sports Day on a Quadriciser. The machine is designed to simulate the movements of walking for people who are unable to do so.
J. Phillip Williams Jr. of Vienna hits a return during a game with student volunteers and members of the James Madison University women’s volleyball team at Saturday’s Adaptive Sports Day.

HARRISONBURG — Kyla Roerty’s second unofficial visit to James Madison University may have sealed her future as a Duke.

The 11-year-old from Mechanicsville met President Jonathan Alger, ate food that was “the best” at the university dining hall, and learned that the school has an archery team, like the one she’s on at home.

“In six years,” said her mother, Julee Roerty, at Godwin Hall on Saturday, “she will be here.”

Recruiting future students to Harrisonburg, however, is not the ultimate purpose of Adaptive Sports Day, a collaborative effort among several JMU departments showing middle school, high school and college-eligible participants with disabilities that they can fit in on a college campus and playing field like anyone else.

Kyla, who was born with cerebral palsy, came for the first sports day in the fall to play soccer. She had an “awesome” time, she said, and wasn’t about to miss the next opportunity — to play volleyball and basketball — that came Saturday.

“It feels good to be with kids with disabilities and be able to do sports that are altered to you, but yet still a challenge,” Kyla said. “It feels like I’m doing something good and staying active.”

Her mother added: “It’s just nice that she fits in, which she doesn’t in her typical life. …  It’s been hard to figure out where she fits because she obviously is not a natural athlete, but she has a desire to be.

“You don’t want to lose that. I want her to feel like she can do it. It’s just finding the right fit, and I feel this program at JMU is the right fit for her.”

Kinesiology professor Tom Moran and Josh Pate, an assistant professor in the JMU School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management, received a grant from Alger’s office to pay for the adaptive events. Fifteen people participated in the fall, followed by 18 on Saturday.

The group attended the JMU women’s basketball game Friday night and was assisted Saturday by the women’s volleyball team as well as the Charlottesville Cardinals wheelchair basketball team.

Volunteer students came from numerous university departments, as well as from Radford University and the University of Virginia.

“It’s easy to underestimate [the participants], and they just prove you wrong every time,” JMU senior Janna Marshall said.

While watching volleyball at one point Saturday, JMU junior Lauryn Moxey seemed to see a bit of herself on the court. She said the school’s Disability Services deserves credit for helping assimilate students who face not only outward disabilities, but internal issues, too.

Moxey, 23, took a year off from school because of anxiety, and she doesn’t want others to be too afraid or ashamed to seek help.

“This is such a cool day,” she said through tears.

Phillip and Gaynite Williams brought their 17-year-old son, also named Phillip, to JMU from Fairfax County for the weekend.

The younger Phillip has an intellectual disability, and while his community offers some programs for people with disabilities, none match the job JMU did, his father said.

“We’ve entirely enjoyed it,” the elder Phillip Williams said.

Pate said getting parents to interact with each other adds to the experience.

“They might feel more comfortable sending their kids to college,” he said.

Julee Roerty may already be there with Kyla, whose upbeat attitude Saturday apparently wasn’t an anomaly.

“She’s very determined,” she said, “but we don’t let her wallow.”

Contact Preston Knight at  574-6272 or

NDN Video News