Philanthropy

Why You Should Get Involved in Special Olypmics

In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, let’s talk Special Olympics. Yes, my philanthropy is not Special Olympics, but this organization is near and dear to my heart and works hand and hand with my philanthropy in a way. I have been involved in and coached for Special Olympics for 2 years, working with athletes for swimming, basketball and triathlon training and events.

Why You Should Get Involved in Special Olypmics
Athletes on the bench at the annual basketball game.

The athletes I was blessed to work with had disabilities that ranged from autism to Down’s Syndrome to those that are blind or wheelchair bound. There was not a single athlete who complained or was unhappy about getting to participate or practice; each athlete came in and left every practice or event with a smile on their face. The stigma surrounding those with an Intellectual Disability (ID) such as Autism or even Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is wrong. The happiest, most motivated and highest achieving people I have ever known have been my athletes and others with disabilities I have worked with over the years.

Not only have I worked with children with ID’s, I also have the privilege of working with adults. Watching Adam, one of my athletes and a close friend since preschool, excitedly tell me about how he got his first job at practice, was one of the coolest things I got to see as not only a coach, but as a friend. Adam has also had a girlfriend for a few years, another friend I grew up with since preschool named Sarah. They are regular people, with hopes and dreams very similar to ours, but they have special hearts that make them beautiful and unique.

Why You Should Get Involved in Special Olypmics
Our athletes shooting hoops from wheelchairs with those with physical disabilities.

Here are a few facts on Special Olympics and the athletes involved:

  • There are around 6.5 million people in the U.S. with Intellectual Disabilities.
  • Worldwide, there are around 200 million people with an Intellectual Disabilities.
  • There are more than 4.4 million Special Olympic athletes worldwide.
  • There are 32 different Olympic-style summer and winter sports to participate.
  • Athletes can begin participating in sports as early as 2 years old with the Young Athletes Program, continuing as long as they wish to participate.
  • Students can volunteer through Special Olympics College programs and work with college aged students with Intellectual Disabilities.
  • There are events 365 days a year!
  • Volunteers can become coaches through Coaching Excellence training.

If this sounds amazing to you, you would be right. There is always a need for volunteers and coaches, especially those in college with the skills and energy to keep up with the pace of such amazing and energetic athletes as those in Special Olympics. Not only do athletes participate in games and events, but they also host holiday events for the kids, fun event days outside of sports, and a possible opportunity to design t-shirts (we all love t-shirts!). As Greeks, we have the power to impact causes like Special Olympics and autism awareness more powerfully than anyone else. We have the skills, motivation and conviction to raise awareness for any cause that we hold dear, even if it isn’t our sorority’s philanthropy. This month, I know I will stand with Alpha Xi Delta and wear my blue proudly! At some point on your life, someone somewhere will you ask you what impact you have made in this world. What will be your answer?

Why You Should Get Involved in Special Olypmics
Athletes, Coaches and Volunteers after the game.

For more information about Special Olympics, visit their website at: www.specialolympics.org

For more information on Autism Speaks, visit their website at: www.autismspeaks.org

Why You Should Get Involved in Special Olypmics
Neal shooting for 2 at the big game.
Why You Should Get Involved in Special Olypmics
One of our younger athletes dunking the ball!

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