Michigan Special Olympic Winter Games 2017 • Jan 31- Feb 3
This year I had the privilege of volunteering for the Michigan Special Olympic Winter Games. I was one of the many Central Michigan students able to volunteer with the athletes all week in Traverse City. There were so many volunteers at the games and each of us was assigned to a specific place/ competition. I was lucky to be assigned to the best place of them all with the best volunteers and Games committee members; Cross Country Skiing! It is kind of weird to say, but it felt like we were a family after a week of little sleep, broomball, naps, and cross-country competitions every day. I felt close to everyone on our team and it was remarkable to watch people have very different and wonderful experiences throughout the week. I got to know even more people from CMU who share my passions. Something else that was really cool was getting to spend time with Paul, one of my parent’s best friends from college. He started volunteering for Special Olympics with my dad back when they were CMU students and he still volunteers. We hope to get my dad to join us next year!
Here is the week through my eyes: The bus full of excited volunteers left school on Tuesday morning. Upon arriving in Traverse City, we attended a meeting with our assigned groups and started to get to know one another. Then we all made snowflakes for the opening and closing ceremonies, and not little ones, but very large funky snowflakes to decorate the room. Tuesday night we had our first volunteer ‘party’ where we bonded even more with our group and even got to eat some pretty delicious food. The next morning came with the bright and early departure time of 6:30am to get us to the ski course to set it up for the athletes. Although it may have been cold and early, there was so much excitement in the air that no one really cared about the early hour. We spent the day with whatever task we were assigned to. My assignment was doing math all day! Math does not sound like the most fun activity but the actual assignment was calculating and recording all of the athlete’s times. I may have been able to sit in a car to do all of this math, but don’t be fooled it was still very chilly because I had the windows open all the time so I could hear and get the time cards (it was better than outside though). Paul thought it would be funny to take a picture of me sitting in the car and send it to my dad! My favorite part about the job was getting to see the background work that went on and seeing all the hard work that had to happen to put the games on. This was basically the schedule for Thursday and Friday as well. We would go to our volunteer parties, sleep a little, wake up early, and head to the course. One of the best times of the day was lunch when all of the CMU volunteers would eat fast and then head into the lodge, put the fire on and nap for an hour. It was beautiful. Opening ceremony kicked off the games on Wednesday and closing ceremony concluded the event with a dance on Thursday. This was time we were able to just have fun with the athletes and watch them have so much fun, it was a blast! Both of these events were fantastic, but the dance was a special treat because all of the volunteers and athletes just got to relax and enjoy the event all together. Let me tell you, all of the athletes really know how to enjoy a dance. Their joy and happiness to be there was contagious. Besides being with the athletes, I mentioned our volunteer parties and broomball. These all took place at night and offered a time for all of the volunteers to get together, bond, eat, and have fun.
Although I may have missed the week of school nothing can compare to what I learned at Special Olympics. I am now counting down until I can go again next year!