The following is an excerpt of an essay submitted by a student at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, OK. It recounts the feelings of a young college student after her first volunteer assignment with Special Olympics......
I left a different person, a better person. I learned a lot while helping with Special Olympics. I suppose when I thought about helping with the Games, I didn't have any expectations for the athletes themselves, but I did expect myself to be changed. As far as change, well, I will never be the same. I will be involved with Special Olympics again, and I feel that it is an unexplainable experience that everyone should be involved in at least once.
Driving away from Weatherford High School Saturday, the thought that had once consumed my thoughts that morning, how severe would my athlete be, could not have been further from my mind. Instead of thinking of the athletes in terms of their handicaps, I was thinking of them in terms of what I had seen, their hearts.
I will never forget feeling someone reach for my hand, and his hand being so very cold....and I never heard a complaint. I will never forget asking him whether he wanted to stand outside to wait for his turn or go inside, and hearing the slurred response, "whatever you want to do, it doesn't matter to me, I'll stay with you".
I will absolutely never forget feeling someone behind me putting my hood on me, when again, it had started to rain, turning around and telling my athlete "thank you" and him responding "I don't want you to get sick".
As I look back on Special Olympics, I find that the word "special" in this title does not mean the same to me now as it did previously. Before, it was a description of the athletes' handicaps, not it is a reflection of the athletes themselves. "Special", what better word to describe my athlete and my experience at Special Olympics Games on a cold, rainy day in April, when my life was changed forever.