Special Olympics welcomes volunteers
On Nov. 12 and 13, amid cold and cloudy weather, 3,000 athletes said the Special Olympic oath, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” They gathered at Fountain Valley’s Southern California Special Olympic Fall Games to compete in multiple sports such as floor hockey, soccer, softball, tennis, volleyball and bowling.
Volunteering at the Games
Biola students had the opportunity to volunteer at the Special Olympic Fall Games with the games being so near to campus. Caitlin Ryan, a senior journalism major with an emphasis in public relations, took advantage of the opportunity.
Ryan interned in the Special Olympics public relations office with the president and CEO of Southern California Special Olympics, Bill Shumard. Ryan assisted with the organizing, planning and assisting of the execution and publicity efforts for the organization.
“I don’t think I’ll ever stop helping, I will always be a part of Special Olympics even if I do not work with them,” Ryan said.
Although Ryan did a lot with the public relations of Special Olympics her favorite part was seeing the athletes play with huge smiles on their faces.
“I think that being a Special Olympic athlete helps the athlete see how much he is capable of doing,” Ryan said. Special Olympics helps the athletes understand that they are not so different, Ryan said.
Games continue despite rain
The forecast of the rain did not stop the softball team the Terminators of Temecula, Calif., from playing — especially 15-year-old Tyler Phippen.
The crowd screamed with excitement after Tyler Phippen, who always has a smile on his face, hit his first grand slam.
“I felt like a hero,” Tyler Phippen said with his eyes closed, almost in tears.
Tyler Phippen played on the baseball team in high school and went to practice every day, but would come home discouraged because he never touched the ball.
“It feels good to see your kid do well,” his mother Cheri Phippen said.
A mother’s dream is to see her child succeed and when her child has a disability, that dream becomes greater, according to Cheri Phippen.
Special Olympics depends heavily on the volunteers and coaches. Kimber Stange has been coaching Special Olympics golf, gymnastics and softball for over 25 years. When Stange moved from Washington to Southern California, she began coaching because of her stepsister. Stange’s stepsister was an athlete in the Special Olympics and Stange wanted to get closer to her, so she felt that by getting involved with Special Olympics, she would be a part of her life.
Preparing all year
Special Olympic athletes wait all year for these events — it’s their day to show that they are no different than anyone else. Instead of just being able to play high school or college sports, they experience the spotlight.
“These athletes need to have people around them who love them, it is so important for them to be a part of a community by making them feel like they are not alone,” Ryan said.
If it were not for the parents, volunteers and coaches, these athletes would not get the chance to shine — Tyler Phippen would not have know what it felt like to make a grand slam.
“One challenge that I have come across is how not enough people know that Special Olympics is around, and when they do find out, they don’t know what is offered to them,” Kimber said.
Fall Games happen yearly and Spring Games are coming up. According to the official Southern California Special Olympics website, volunteers are needed to help these kids do what they love.
Special Olympics is an annual event where every player gets a chance to play and to be successful and just like Tyler Phippen put it, they get to feel like a hero.