This week I was fortunate to volunteer with our local association of Special Olympics. The Olympians and their caregivers gathered under a brilliant blue sky and bright sunshine with temperatures soaring past the 80-degree mark. Coolers filled with water were stored under bright colored tents. The excitement, on the high school football field, was palpable.
Throughout the day, as I stood among the Olympians, I was reminded of my Aunt Louise, who was physically challenged, but a force to be reckoned with much like these people. The smiles that beamed from 350 faces as they crossed the finish line was brighter than the sun.
But the less talked about participants are the caregivers. I witnessed men and women running behind wheel chairs as they pushed people across the finish lines, walking next to folks as they needed the moral or physical support to walk the 25 or 50 meters to receive their medal. But the most touching moment I had the pleasure to witness was a boy of about twelve running the 300-meter race. At first I thought he was alone, struggling to keep going. Like a streak, a woman raced around the track and passed him, then she turned and was running backwards, facing him, encouraging him to keep going. I couldn’t hear her words but I could see the expression on his face as it turned from hopeless to hopeful. His stride lengthened and he put one foot in front of the other. This woman fell just a half step behind him and kept pace as he broke the yellow crepe paper ribbon. His arms raised in victory, amidst the cheering of onlookers, his smile melting hearts.
From the youngest Olympian, around four years old, to the oldest well into their fifties, each one walked away a winner. One older man, Tommy, told us before the games started that he was there to qualify for the Massachusetts state games. I was there when Tommy crossed the finish line. He hugged each one of us as we were cheering him on. His fist pumped the air and he exclaimed, “Did you see me? I did it!” The sunburns and aching feet were forgotten. For this volunteer, to be a part of the Special Olympics is a humbling experience. The first Wednesday of May 2019 you can find me at the games.
To say it is one of those experiences I will treasure for a lifetime is an understatement.
Until next time,
I wish you happiness.