James Madison University

OT Students Serve as Guides

By: Lynsey Palmer & Stefani Sangiovanni
Posted: February 4, 2015

JMU OT students Stefani Sangiovanni, Lynsey Palmer, Bryan Davis, Brittany Rivera, and Shannon Allen had the opportunity to work with the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB) Cross Country team this fall. Little did they know this experience would be far more rewarding for them than expected. The students were guide runners for members of the team who were blind or had low vision.

PHOTO: JMU Students

Guide runners run beside or in front of whomever they were guiding and holding one end of a tether to ensure the safety of the runner. Guide runners must constantly describe the environment, direction of travel, and terrain to the runner. Additionally, guide runners act as motivators and encourage runners to reach their full potential.

This idea sparked when Greg Hansen, OTR/L from VSDB suggested that Stefani and Lynsey conduct their master's research project with the cross country team. The research project aimed to examine whether team membership and athletic competence influenced the self-esteem and social circles of adolescents who are blind. Palmer and Sangiovanni hope that OT students will carry on the new tradition of working with the cross country team and continue their research project in the years to come.

"My experience with the VSDB Cross Country Team is one that I would never trade for anything. It was great to get involved in the community and work with such an inspirational group of students!" -Palmer

"Guide running at VSDB provided me with a unique opportunity to give back to others in the community. The irony is that I received so much more from the team than I could ever give back to them. The students are so inspiring, fun, and humble. I left VSDB with a sense of gratitude and look forward to participating in other VSDB activities!" -Davis

"I'm not the biggest fan of running, which in turn made me hesitant to help out with the VSDB cross country team, at first. My first day at practice, I was placed with the two fastest students and could not keep up. I kept with it even though I can barely run three miles. This was one of the best experiences I have ever been a part of!"- Rivera

"I've never had so much fun or been so motivated to run in my life. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this team." -Sangiovanni


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