I’ve been back from this trip for almost two weeks now. I am still trying to comprehend in my mind how it made me feel. I was an experience unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I was blessed to be 1 out of 100 volunteers that were able to work to make sure that the Michigan Special Olympics Winter Games went off without a hitch. Yes, it was hard work, but work that I would do over and over again just to see and experience the joy that radiated from those athletes.
I was placed to volunteer at Schuss Mountain with the Athletes competing in Alpine Ski and Snowboarding. Waking up at 6am to bundle up and catch the shuttle at 7am making it to the mountain at 8 to make sure everything was prepared for the athletes. Then standing along side the gates on the course to make sure if they fell or anything went wrong we were there to assist them, but when things went well I got to be their cheerleader the whole way down the hill! Being able to cheer the athletes on as they flew by me, some singing there own little theme song to themselves, or telling themselves “I can do it, I can do it, I can do it” the whole way down the hill. Even one athlete I was cheering him on say “you got this!!” and he said thank you to every volunteer cheering him on down the hill. It made my heart soar. Their determination, pride, joy and their pure hearts took over mine.
At the end of a long day at the hill the volunteers were able to go down to the awards ceremonies and hand out watch and talk to the athletes as they were receiving their awards. This here was when I started to grasp what these games meant to these athletes. I was standing next to a gentleman and I asked him “are you excited, nervous?” and what he said blew me away he says, ” you know what, I’m just happy to be here, no matter what place I get.” He took first place, he started crying dropped to the ground, then stood back up and did the iconic arms in the arm victory stance. That right there embodies what Special Olympics stands for. It changed my life.