A contingent of Oregon students affiliated with the school’s American Sign Language (ASL) club and student-athletes with the school’s O Heroes program gathered at Pape´ Field on Tuesday to hangout and play sports with local kids in the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Students from the Oregon School for the Deaf and kids from the 4J school district came to the ASL event.
“We put a lot of smiles on everyone’s faces and it was really rewarding for us to come out here and to get an impact on the kids,” Oregon defensive lineman TJ Daniel said.
Representatives from the football, women’s basketball, men and women’s track and field, acrobatics and tumbling, volleyball, softball, women’s soccer women’s lacrosse and the cheerleader team shared laughs and smiles with the kids. Members from the American sign language club were also on hand for the event.
The event opened up with a cheer from the Oregon cheerleading squad. The cheerleaders were only slotted to stay at the field for thirty minutes, but after seeing the kids for the first time, three cheerleaders decided to stay and join the experience.
“We wanted to stay a little longer because they were disappointed when we left,” Oregon cheerleader Maggie Rouse said. “They make our day and we want to make their day too.”
The cheerleaders aren’t normally involved with the O Heroes program. So when Rouse, and fellow cheerleaders Julianna Sick and Caroline Issac, got the opportunity to be a part of the event, they jumped at it.
“It’s so incredible for us because we don’t get to do a lot of O Heroes stuff so when we get invited we get really excited,” Rouse said. “It’s so rewarding for us to be able to teach them some things that we know.”
One of the most experienced student-athletes in ASL is women’s basketball forward Jillian Alleyne. Growing up Alleyne’s mother had a co-worker that was Deaf. Alleyne would watch the woman use her nine-year old son as a translator and it inspired her.
“I thought it was the coolest thing,” Alleyne said. “When I went to my first high school they had it, so I was like ‘I’m taking it’ and I’ve been taking it for five years now.”
Today’s event was not only a chance for Alleyne to hangout with kids — something she loves to do whenever possible — but to see the way people in the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community interact.
“What I love about this event is how the Deaf kids are so vivid in what they do,” Aleyne said. “You can’t see what they’re signing but you can see through their face and their facial expressions.”
Oregon football safety Juwaan Williams does not practice ASL, but he decided he wanted to help out with the kids anyways. What he didn’t envision was wearing a chest protector, a goalie mask and standing in between a lacrosse goal. The kids took their turns running through cones before loading and firing a shot at Williams in between the net.
Jonathan Sierra, a football player at the Oregon school for the Deaf, dropped the ball out of his stick twice. Each time, Sierra would pick up the ball and jog to the back of the line. On his third attempt, Sierra fired the ball off of Williams and into the back of the net. Sierra, a major fan of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, enjoyed his first experience with lacrosse.
“This is the first time playing lacrosse and I had no experience with it at all,” Sierra said through a translator. “It was great to see.”
Williams saved the first six attempts from the kids before giving up the goal to Sierra. After, he thought extremely highly of Sierra’s lacrosse ability.
“He needs a scholarship to Johns Hopkins right now,” Williams said jokingly. “That kid is a scorer.”
At the end of the day, it became blatantly obvious that the student-athletes benefited form the day just as much as the visiting kids.
“Giving back to the community, whenever we can, is a great opportunity for us,” Williams said. “It’s like you’re a kid again. They don’t look at you as an adult. You’re just a regular kid to them living the dream.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @JoeJHoyt