EFMP day brings communities together
May 10, 2013
VICENZA, Italy -- Participants in the third annual Exceptional Family Member Program Field Day left Caserma Ederle with medals around their necks and smiles on their faces May 3.
More than 80 Italian children and youth with special needs came to post to participate with others in a day of fun-filled activities.
"This year, the responsibility for communication with the Italian community was taken on by volunteer and friend Patrizia Robertson. She took this on as a near full-time task for one and half months," said Cara Panzarella-Tarr, EFMP program manager.
According to Panzarella-Tarr, EFMP field day was created to give persons with different disabilities a "level playing field" in events. Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team are paired up with each participant to assist them throughout the day.
"The 173rd has supported this event because it is a great community outreach and supports the value of selfless service to some special needs children," said Capt. Nathan Davies, 173rd ABCT. "This is one of the few taskings that we have where more Soldiers volunteer for it than are ever requested. Our Soldiers feel like they have made a difference in these kids' lives and love supporting this event each year."
Additionally, among Vicenza High School students, interpreters and others in the community, it is estimated that more than 300 volunteered during the day.
The day began with a parade around the track followed by relay races with four members of each team running in turn. After the relay, each team rotated to different stations with activities all around the field. The activities ranged from soccer ball kicking and goal tending to volleyball bumping, softball throwing and various running events. The group then took a break for a lunch organized by the Boy Scouts.
"This event would absolutely not be at the detailed level of success if it didn't have the wonderful volunteer base," said Panzarella-Tarr. "Most volunteers came out with a desire to make a difference and made the magic happen."
Activities in the afternoon were lighthearted and included playing with a parachute, art and painting, yoga and dancing. At the very end of the day the groups were brought together to watch a dance performed by the VHS women's softball team to Will.I.Am's "Hall of Fame."
Airborne buddies presented certificates of appreciation from the 173rd ABCT to each participant. Winners of the relay races received medals from U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza Commander Col. David Buckingham, who assisted through the day with his family. Former U.S. Army Africa Commander Lt. Gen. David Hogg's family returned from Belgium to participate in the event.
One local boy's family told event organizers that before he first participated in the EFMP Day three years ago, he barely spoke and never left the house. Now he enjoys playing sports and isn't bothered going into public. His Airborne buddy, Spc. Robert Sullivan, said he had previous experience working with disabled children, but added that the fact that the child spoke a foreign language added another challenge.
"Participants' smiles last for a long while after the event due to the simple fact that they have experienced a joyful day. They feel accomplished for having competed as they are aware others in their world have done," Panzarella-Tarr said.