Although the Special Olympics are about athletes with disabilities competing to win their respective sports, the volunteers help make it the successful event that it is.
1.4 million volunteers participate in programs around the world, both locally and globally. There are long-term and short-term commitments, so anyone can give back. Not only do helpers meet people, but many individuals like to volunteer together in a group.
Many athletes become volunteers to give back and use their knowledge and experience to help new athletes. Not only does volunteering enrich one’s life, but it unites people in a bigger cause that makes for a more accepting world.
Most volunteers affirm that they are benefited just as much as the athletes they are helping. The athletes show pure joy and excitement, which rubs off on everyone around them. One volunteer from Connecticut, Nicole D’Andrea, noted how the athletes she met changed her life: “The Special Olympics athletes and other people I have met along the way have shaped my life…. I found strength in them that I could not discover in anyone else” (specialolympics.org).
Nippon volunteer, Ryosuke Niwa, had similar feelings. He said, “I learned that having a disability is a small thing, and that what counts is what we have in our hearts” (specialolympics.org). Volunteers have been influenced just as much as they have influenced the athletes.
The Special Olympics is about more than athletes competing to win games, but it is about overcoming obstacles and making for a better world for everyone to live in.