Why I Volunteer
For our 2021 Volunteer Appreciation Week, we wanted to collect responses of why our volunteers pick Special Olympics Maryland as their preferred cause. See a few of the responses from our volunteers below.
“At first I thought that was a pretty easy answer but when i started writing, it wasn’t so easy. At first it was because of my son Woody, he has been in Special Olympics for 22 years. I was at all his Spring Game events since he started. Well about 10 years ago I found out there was more to Special Olympics then just the once a year event. So I signed him up for a few more sports like basketball skills. After his first year I saw that they really needed help. So I filled out the volunteer form and started helping, well by the next year I was coaching. I never realized how much I got from the athletes. I believe they give me more then I give them. As things progressed there was a turnover of the team that ran the Carroll County Special Olympics and I was asked to be on the management team as the fundraising coordinator. I guess me not having a problem asking for money for my guys was the reason. This last year has been so hard on the athletes. I really miss them. I don’t care what kind of day I was having as soon as I got to practice my day got ten times better.
I know first hand how hard it is for our athletes to do what others take for granted. I get so much pleasure watching them accomplish something that they or someone else didn’t think they could do.
I also help with Track and Field. The feeling you get when you watch one of your team cross the finish line, and it doesn’t matter what place they come in, and see the look on their faces, is a feeling you can’t describe. I still to this day get choked up when they parade the athletes around before the Opening of the Games. I watch my son get the biggest smile on his face when he stands on the podiums and receives his medal. That is something you have to experience to understand. I get that feeling when I watch any of my athletes receive an award for something they were told they could never do.
I enjoy running the fundraisers and getting our athletes out in the community during the events. We are blessed with a very supportive and giving community in Carroll County. They are always there to help out and enjoy meeting the athletes that they are helping. It helps the athletes to get out of their comfort zone and help them to see there are so many people pulling for them. My husband is a coach and volunteer as well. So it is a family affair for us.”
Donna Higgs-McGuire, Special Olympics Maryland Volunteer
“Imagine a gym full of athletes of all ages – say 45 or so – all excited, and laughing, hanging with friends and waiting their turn to shoot and dribble the ball. The littlest ones heave the ball over their heads and high-five everyone if it gets near the rim…the older ones show off their skills to each other. “Huh, beat that!” they say. And the ones in their wheelchairs smile and laugh and try so hard to accomplish just one thing each week. And not one leaves without stopping by the coaches and shouting “See you next week!”
Then imagine a high school track full of activity – there is running going on everywhere! Short distances, middle distances, and the continuous loop of the long distance runners all happening at the same time. Little ones running from a coach to a parent, staying in their lanes for the first time – so proud! Older ones settling into the track routine and giving their very best running longer distances than they used to run. And the softball throwers, javelin athletes, and the shotput group all working up to the next competition… And the Summer Games come and all of them, every last one, proudly wears the results of their hard work around their necks!
This is why.”
Lavonne Smith, Special Olympics Maryland Parent & Volunteer
“When you volunteer for Special Olympics for the first time, it changes you. A light of inspiration takes over and you realize how amazingly unique and brilliant each Athlete is. Working with Special Olympic athletes brings a joy that makes life very fulfilling. Throughout the years working with SOMD I’ve been lucky enough to make friends with Athletes all over the state and no matter how long has passed since I’ve seen them last, each time our paths cross, it’s like no time has passed at all. Bringing awareness to the necessity of inclusion of such ambitious humans in society is the goal, but the friendships are the Why.”
Kerri Lichtenberg, Special Olympics Maryland Volunteer
“In January of 2009, my daughter Leah was born with Down Syndrome. While she spent a lot of time in the hospital due to heart problems, I immersed myself in the world of Down Syndrome, learning all I could. It was then that I learned about Special Olympics and I immediately started envisioning my daughter getting involved in various sports and how great it would be to spend that time with her and watch her grow. She was turning out to be an amazing little girl, full of giggles and just fun to be around. Two days shy of her 10 month birthday, she unexpectedly got sick and very quickly passed away. I still held on to the memories of what Special Olympics would have meant for her.
In her memory, I decided to do my very first Polar Bear Plunge in January of 2010. It was an incredible experience, I got to meet a lot of folks involved with Special Olympics and I realized that it was something that I needed to focus on and make a permanent part of my life. Both to give back to a community that had done so much for me and my family in such a short time and to also help support the organization so that future athletes would be able to partake in the dream I’d had for my own daughter. Being part of the Special Olympics community and having the opportunity to watch so many wonderful athletes take part in the various sports helps me to feel connected to my own daughter in ways that I could have never imagined.”