Student Cassie Boyd has led an Innovative Partnership to Benefit Local Athletes
Following a passion can lead to a true purpose – and Cassie Boyd’s passion is in the service of others.
Boyd is a current physical therapy student at Touro University Nevada, a nonprofit private institution specializing in allied health sciences, education and osteopathic medicine. She was first introduced to Special Olympics as a volunteer while attending Calvin College in Michigan, where the state’s regional summer games were being held.
“I signed up to help and was designated to the swimming pool where I was assigned a couple of athletes to lead to their events,” she said. “It was there that I fell in love with everything Special Olympics offered. Every athlete was welcoming and hoped for the best for each other. There was an instant connection for me and this organization.”
Upon moving west to further her studies at Touro, Boyd knew that she had to stay involved with Special Olympics – even while enrolled in a time-intensive medical program. She reached out to Special Olympics Nevada (SONV) and soon reestablished a previous relationship between SONV and Touro – and it has flourished ever since.
In the past two years, Touro has supported SONV with volunteers at numerous competitions and events; raised money and participated in the Las Vegas Polar Plunge; and recently became a Special Olympics Unified Champion School. More than 300 students and staff also joined the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, pledging to end the use of the R-word [retard/ed].
Even more, Touro students and staff have used their expertise to support SONV athletes on the medical front. Nursing students offered flu shots to athletes through a mobile clinic and the physical therapy department has been instrumental in the growth of the Healthy Athletes Program, offering free physical fitness screenings for athletes at a variety of events through FunFitness.
“The FunFitness program tests an athlete’s endurance, strength, flexibility and balance to find areas of deficit in order to instruct in ways to improve their physical health,” explained Boyd. “This program not only allows us to help an athlete improve their sports performance but to also prevent injuries that could come from a lack or deviation in any of the areas tested.”
FunFitness and the rest of the Healthy Athletes disciplines focus on providing care for athletes to be at their best – both in the game and in everyday life. Touro, led by Assistant Professor Steven Liaos PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, FAAOMPT, also uses the opportunity to provide a teaching moment for students, who get to gain real-world experience in treating individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Boyd, who hopes to work in physical therapy with children after graduation, has taken her passion and used it to inspire others around her to get involved. She said that she feels lucky being surrounded by so many of her peers and teachers who are eager to give back – especially to Special Olympics.
“My cousin was born with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, which is a rare mutation that puts him at a disadvantage,” she said. “I have always been close with him. Even though he may be at a higher level of mental disabilities then most, I believe that if he would've been involved with the Special Olympics at a younger age that he would have a better outlet for his anxiety now. I realize how important athletics are to these special individuals and the role that it plays - not only in their health but in their social life.”
As Boyd heads into her last year at Touro, she is confident that the partnership with SONV will continue to grow and prosper as future students and staff get to experience the joys of Special Olympics.
“I hope that the passion for Special Olympics will spread all over this school and the relationship that we have with the athletes will continue to grow,” she said. “As FunFitness persists, it is my dream that more Healthy Athletes programs will come from different instructors in Touro that will allow for more free health care opportunities. I know that there are more things in the works at the moment and I can't help but be excited that so many people want to help out.”
Touro University Nevada is home to nearly 1,400 students and boasts a full-service patient health clinic, staffed by practicing faculty members, and a multidisciplinary Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. In addition to serving the community through care, both facilities serve as on site learning laboratories for students across the disciplines. Learn more at tun.touro.edu.