I chose to look up blogs with testimonials to Special Olympics because it is an organization that has grown near and dear to my heart. Just a brief background, I first was involved with Special Olympics during my freshman year here at Villanova as a Local Program Host (LPH) who, for lack of a better term/phrase, serve as a cheerleader for a county of athletes during the weekend of Special Olympics of Pennsylvania’s Fall Festival. I went into this experience with an open heart and a great group of new college freshman and received one of the best, if not the best so far, experiences of my life. The weekend, I believe, did more for me by giving me a new perspective into how people live their lives and find enjoyment than I did by cheering for a small, yet amazing group of Mercer County athletes. After this weekend, I knew that I wanted to have Special Olympics be a part of my life, in some way, for the rest of my days. Since then, I have also served as a Volunteer Coordinator, a Roller Skating Assistant, and a Facilities Assistant for Special Olympics of Pennsylvania Fall Festival.
The four blogs that I found happened to all be on the Special Olympics blog on wordpress.com. what i found, as I have found in my own experience, is that Special Olympics does change the lives of people involved, whether that be an athlete, a parent/family member of an athlete, or a volunteer, for the better. I was happy to find blogs from the perspective of two mothers of athletes, an athlete, and a sibling of an athlete, all with a similar message of how great Special Olympics has been in their lives.
Starting with a blog titled: “The Special Olympics Experience”, I read about the personal account a young woman gave about the effect bullying and the r-word has, first and foremost, had a negative effect on herself and her friends, and how the opportunity of becoming a global messenger within Special Olympics has given her a platform to stand-up for “people with disabilities so they don’t have to go through the same torment that I did and still is.” This blog helped shed some light for me on what this organization has provided for its athletes. I was happy to hear that for Ashley, Special Olympics has provided a safe environment, where there is no bullying and where she can feel special in her own way.
Reading: “Against The Odds”, I learned about how a mom has been inspired by her son who is not an athlete that competes in bowling, basketball, soccer, and golf, but also a friend to many and the husband to the love of his life. Zack’s mom, Alice, writes about how, “through training and competition, Zachary learned that, with hard work and practice, he could achieve anything he wanted. This drive and dedication spilled over into all areas of life, helping him to graduate from high school and to earn a degree from our local community college. His participation in Special Olympics also helped Zach to develop skills which have allowed him to be more independent and to hold a job. Thanks in part to these skills, he has been gainfully employed since 2001.” I don’t think you could as for a prouder mom.
The third blog, “Special Olympics is Home”, gave me the account of a sister’s perspective on her older brother’s involvement in Special Olympics. It seemed to me in this blog, like it was for Ashley, that Special Olympics provided a safe haven for Katie’s brother Tanner, where he could be accepted for the gifts and talents that he possesses and is given respect. One of the great things I found in this blog was what Special Olympics has meant for Katie, Tanner and the Hrenchir Family: “Special Olympics has not only helped Tanner, it has helped our whole family. Seeing Tanner in his daily struggles and witnessing people bully him was so hard to endure. Through Special Olympics my family has found happiness and so much joy. We were given a program that Tanner could succeed in. We were given a program where we could watch Tanner grow and be happy. That is all we could ask for.”
Lastly, the blog, “Proud and Thankful”, gave me the perspective of the fears and challenges that a parent faces having a child with a disability. Special Olympics has provide for Ana DeMello, the mother of Lani DeMello, a support system: “Aside from what it has meant to our daughter, Special Olympics has been an immense source of support for us. When Lani was first diagnosed with an intellectual disability, we were greeted with sympathy and pity, when what we were really looking for was understanding, support and information. With Special Olympics, we always know where to turn if we need help or encouragement. It has been wonderful for us to be part of a community of people who understand the challenges and joys of having a child with an intellectual disability.”
These blogs provided for me the perspective I was hoping to find. As it will continue to change the lives of people who get involved with it, I strongly suggest finding a way to get involved with Special Olympics in any sort of capacity. You will walk away happy, filled with joy, and a new perspective on how human beings come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: people are people.