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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Bulldogs on the Move serves SOCSD students with disabilities

The sound of laughter and euphoria quickly fill the cavernous indoor tennis court as local elementary school students stream into McCarthy Gymnasium on the Mississippi State University campus.

Immediately, the MSU student-volunteers are put to work with requests to play catch, tag and give piggyback rides.

With smiles from ear to ear, running in no distinct pattern, these children are guided by what catches their eye next. Many types of balls fill the air, whizzing past people, and yet no teacher tries to implement order to the seemingly chaotic atmosphere; this is the children’s time.   

At “Bulldogs on the Move,” the ability to play far outweighs any of the elementary school students’ disabilities. It is an event where a high-five can fix most things and a smile or laugh convey more than even the most eloquent of sentences.

Bulldogs on the Move is a partnered philanthropy event created by the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and the Special Education department of the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District. It was inspired by Pi Kappa Phi’s national philanthropy organization “The Ability Experience,” a program designed to serve and raise awareness for people with disabilities.

MSU’s “Pi Kapp” chapter founded Bulldogs on the Move in 2013 to support children with disabilities in Starkville.

Harrison Bond, a sophomore from Cumming, Georgia, serves as the philanthropy chair for MSU Pi Kapp. The landscape contracting major said he has always enjoyed the Bulldogs on the Move events, but now he finds immense value in coordinating them. 

“It has been cool to talk with the people from the school system and to see how much the kids really love it and hear them ask ‘Why haven’t we done it yet?’ It’s just a lot of fun,” Bond said.

Over 50 students from four different elementary schools participated in Bulldogs on the Move. Many did not know each other before arriving but seemed like best friends by the event’s end.

Tiffany Livingston, a special education teacher at Sudduth Elementary, understands the importance of Bulldogs on the Move from both an educator’s perspective and as a person who simply cares for her students.

“They’re not always my students. I need to play and have fun with them as well, but it’s fun to watch them let loose because we can’t always do that in a classroom setting,” Livingston said.

In addition, Livingston said there are significant educational benefits for her students on top of all the fun and excitement.

The SPED teacher said the large and open environment helps her students with autism cope with sensory overload. She also said there is a noticeable improvement in her students’ ability to focus when they return to school after Bulldogs on the Move.

While the event is organized by Pi Kapp, they encourage any student to come and support the cause. Haleigh Smith, a senior from Biloxi, uses Bulldogs on the Move to reset after a long school week.

“It’s a good stress relief—it is easy to come for an hour on a Friday. We are just coming here to spend time with them. They’ve had a hard week, too, so we can come together and just hang out and play and get to know them,” the biological science major said.

As the song “Closing Time” ushered the elementary students out of the gym, it was hard not to see the change in the overall atmosphere.

College students who had not known each other before the event were now laughing and joking as they collected the scattered balls and frisbees; they were brought together by a group of students with the ability to unify.

“It’s a cliché, but you never realize how much something little can make a difference,” Bond said. “So just being here for an hour makes their entire week. They just look forward to coming to the MSU campus and just throwing the football with us or getting a piggyback ride.” 

Upcoming Bulldogs on the Move dates are Sept. 22, Oct. 13 and 27, and Nov. 10.

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Bulldogs on the Move serves SOCSD students with disabilities