Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State takes community service to Indy

September 25, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - As a computer software trainer for Indianapolis Public Schools, Darrell Morton Jr spends his workdays helping teachers stay up to date with technology.

On Saturday, he used a much simpler tool - a rake - as Indiana State University alumni, students, faculty and staff joined Indiana Special Olympians in sprucing up Riverside Park.

The occasion was a national day of service in memory of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics.

"As a part of the Sycamore family, it just seemed natural to give back to the city of Indianapolis, where I'm from, and also be a part of Indiana State University," said Morton, a 1992 ISU graduate. "It's a great way to get Indiana State out there."

Cat Stemmans, faculty fellow in ISU's Center for Public Service and Community Engagement, said the university's ties to Special Olympics date to 1969.

"Two Indiana State University faculty members were instrumental in bringing Special Olympics to the state and the Special Olympics each year are held on the Indiana State campus in Terre Haute," said Stemmans, associate professor of applied medicine and rehabilitation.

Following the reading of a letter of support from President Obama and a "Go Sycamores" cheer from Special Olympian Katie Shaw, the 75 volunteers fanned out to honor Shriver's memory.

"I love going to the state games at ISU every summer. My favorite things are staying in dorms and the dances. It feels like a real college experience. I have been doing Special Olympics activities for the past 10 years and I am so thankful to have them available. In fact, our volleyball teams play right here at this site," Shaw said. "Have fun, have a great day and, in the spirit of Special Olympics, work hard."

Working in 15-member teams, the ISU and Special Olympics volunteers raked leaves, pulled weeds, trimmed shrubs, covered graffiti and painted playground equipment throughout the park, located along White River just north and west of downtown Indianapolis.

Allen McClendon, senior manager of community partnerships with Indy Parks and Recreation, said the assistance was welcome - and needed.

"We have over 200 properties here in the city and we try to keep them all in tip top shape. It becomes a challenge because our maintenance staff can only do the minimum sometimes. They can dump the trash and cut the grass and then move on to the next site. We not only appreciate groups like yours but we depend on you to help the parks stay jewels of the community," McClendon said.

Indiana State has a national reputation for community service and welcomed the opportunity to serve the state's largest city, said Nancy Rogers, associate vice president for experiential learning and community engagement."

"We are looking for ways to increase our involvement in Indianapolis. We do lots and lots of service projects in Terre Haute, so we're taking it on the road today," Rogers said. "We would like to make this at least an annual event and maybe do something in the spring as well."

Sarah Luken, coordinator of special events with Special Olympics Indiana, said Indiana is among the few states doing service work to observe Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day.

"This shows the overwhelming support of what we get back from Indiana State, not only during the month of June but year-round," Luken said. "Having you here today with our athletes, working together, shows them that ISU gives back to our community here. In the spirit of Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, this shows that if everyone supports one thing we can change the world. That's what we're chasing after."

Photos: - Indiana State University alumnus Darrell Morton Jr of Indianapolis was among members of the ISU community who joined with Special Olympics Indiana athletes Sept. 25 for a day of service at Riverside Park in Indianapolis. (ISU/Tony Campbell) - Special Olympics Indiana athlete Katie Shaw spoke of the appreciation she and other athletes have for Indiana State University during the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day of Service Sept. 25 at Riverside Park in Indianapolis. (ISU/Tony Campbell) - Volunteers from Indiana State University and Special Olympics Indiana athletes pick up rakes and shovels Sept. 25 for a day of service at Riverside Park in Indianapolis. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Cat Stemmans, faculty fellow, Center for Public Service and Community Engagement, Indiana State University, 812-237-3693 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or