For the past few years, I have had the opportunity to organize a group to volunteer for the Special Olympics Summer Games. Without the volunteers, the Special Olympics would not be able to carry out its mission of providing sports competition to athletes with intellectual disabilities, consisting of events such as gymnastics, aquatics and athletics.In the previous years, I have been a line referee for volleyball, run scores to the score table for gymnastics and escorted athletes around the field for athletics; a little bit of everything but basically whatever was needed
This year, I brought together a group of about 20 people both adults and children and we were assigned to the aquatics event. Many of the group members were official time keepers with a few of us assigned to present the award medals to the athletes. I was lucky enough to be part of the group presenting medals. In the Special Olympics, everyone is a winner. They kept the divisions small enough to where all athletes received a medal for placing in their event. The athletes were of varying intellectual capacities, ages and gender.
In a short amount of time, you will find yourself bonding with some of these hard working athletes. We learned the names of many and found ourselves cheering for them as much as their proud parents or coaches waiting for them at the finish line. I remember one young lady who kept yelling “look mom” each time she got a medal. She was so proud and it literally brought tears to your eyes to see. Moments like these make those 4 or 5 hours you spend volunteering your time priceless. It is humbling and for me, very fulfilling.
If you aren’t able to volunteer for the Summer Games, there are other ways you can contribute. Although each state chapter will vary, in Georgia, the Special Olympics partnered up with two large races, Color Me Rad and Foam Fest. For Color Me Rad, there was a special code you could use when you registered and part of your registration fee would go to the Special Olympics. Foam Fest asked for volunteers through the Special Olympics and for every volunteer hour worked, they gave $10.00 to the Special Olympics. You can learn about most of the main events through signing up for your local Special Olympics newsletter.
I know many of us are busy and finding time to volunteer can be challenging. Take a moment to look up your local Special Olympics chapter and see what you can do to help support the Special Olympics and so many incredible athletes.