In honor of National Volunteer Month, this is the first of two volunteer-focused posts.
The first time I volunteered at a Sumner County Special Olympics event in Tennessee , I remember seeing this group of ladies in their 50s struggling to walk before the races began. I didn’t know if I could bear to watch; I was worried about how they’d do.
But then, during the 100-meter dash, they came around the corner in a sprint, with an intensity like I’ve never seen. And that’s when I knew how important the annual Spring Games were to them — how badly they wanted to compete, and how happy I was to be a part of it.
I’ve been working with the Special Olympics here for six years. We’ve tripled the number of employees who’ve volunteered since my first year, and employees even use their own vacation hours to do this. We’ve raised around $20,000, including company matching. And this year’s Spring Games will be the biggest ever, with 240 athletes signed up.
For us, it’s not just about putting in a day here and there.
There’s also the story about Tyler (pictured with me above), a 23-year-old who can’t run very well because of dexterity issues, but he loves playing on our soccer team. We practice every Thursday, and then every Friday, he’ll say to his father, “How many days until practice?”
When we chose him to be the torch carrier in the parade, he didn’t sleep a wink the night before because he was so excited. It seems to put everything back in perspective for me.
We teach these kids to try to win, even though it’s not most important. These are people who don’t often have opportunities to compete like many of us do. And as much as they love competing, I have to say that I feel like the lucky one, getting to work with them.