Tom Saldutti of Moorestown is using his time at Villanova University to not only prepare for life in the real world but to give back.
A sophomore at Villanova, Saldutti is a member of the school’s Special Olympics committee, helping plan the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world.
Getting involved with the Special Olympics at Villanova was a project close to Saldutti’s heart.
“I originally joined because Fall Fest sounded like an amazing experience at Villanova. I also saw it as a way to give back to the differently abled community after my family has received so much help with my brother Michael who has Down Syndrome,” Saldutti said.
Villanova students organize and host the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival. Special Olympics Pennsylvania provides year-round sports training and competition for more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The organization offers more than 260 local and sectional events and four major statewide events — Winter Games, Summer Games, State Floor Hockey Tournament and Fall Festival — in 23 sports with the opportunity for athletes to advance to regional and international competitions.
Saldutti became involved through the school’s Local Program Host opportunity as a freshman. Through the program, approximately 80 freshmen are selected to participate in an experience that will acclimate them with the basic ideals and philosophy of the Special Olympics movement and create bonds with those who share similar passions for volunteerism. It only took involvement in one Fall Fest for Saldutti to be hooked.
“After being a LPH freshman last year, I discovered that I truly enjoy giving my own time to ensure that the athletes who come to Villanova have an amazing weekend and can feel that they belong to our community,” Saldutti said.
Watching and interacting with the athletes during their stay at the school are the memories that stuck with Saldutti.
“In between events, I was hanging out with my LPH partner and one of the athletes from our county. The athlete was recording a snap chat to send to one of her friends, and she pointed the camera at us and we waved saying ‘hi’ and ‘go Nova.’ She then turned the camera around and said in the most sincere way ‘I love Villanova!’” Saldutti said. “At this point, I realized how much this weekend meant to the athletes and how lucky I was to be a part of it all.”
The upcoming festival will provide more memories and more fun for Saldutti.
“My favorite part about Fall Festival is walking around during competition. It’s fun to jump between different parts of campus and see all of the athletes competing in their own events,” Saldutti said. “The campus feels alive more than ever as a mixture of staff, volunteers, athletes and the families of the athletes rush around campus.”