Updated: Apr 3
As I sit on campus at the start of my Senior year, I can’t help but feel an immense appreciation for the profound impact that decision to come here has had on me. Maybe it’s the impending reality of the real world, but its very easy to look back and see how my experiences here shaped me into the person I am today, most importantly those tied to a cause bigger than myself.
Perhaps the most profound of these experiences has been the time I spent volunteering with Special Olympics. I was introduced to the organization by my Orientation Counselor and after a few info sessions, I found myself eagerly applying to the freshman volunteer program. This was the start of a three year involvement that would broaden my perspective in ways I never expected and help me mature into the person I am today. As a freshman, I was lucky enough to be accepted as a Local Program Host, or LPH, a position that allows you to be a friend and fan to a specific county of athletes for the entirety of the Special Olympics weekend on campus known as Fall Fest. Connecting with the coaches and athletes of Adam’s county over the course of that first Fall Fest gave me insight into a community and a mission of inclusion that I hadn’t been exposed to in such a way ever before. The athletes I worked with taught me how to have fun, be myself, and experience uninhibited joy. They taught me what it means to really have courage in overcoming adversity and that truly the only disability one can have in life is a bad attitude.
Since that first year being involved with Special Olympics as an LPH, I have continued to work towards a more inclusive future with the Villanova Special Olympics Committee. The Committee is made up of 90-100 student volunteers that must apply each year and are arranged into diverse groups for planning and organizing the Fall Fest that takes place each November. As a sophomore, I was an assistant on the team that planned and organized the venue and competition for all athletes competing in Bocce, over 500 athletes and all of their fans, family, and coaches came out! It was extremely rewarding to see that my hard work paid off in the smiles and victory fist pumps of the athletes at my venue that year.
Did You Know?
Fact: Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized the first International Special Olympics Games in 1968. Held at Chicago's Soldier Field, the event consisted of 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada competing in track and field, swimming, and floor hockey.
The Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival is hosted and organized by Villanova University students and is the largest annual student-run Special Olympics event in the world.
Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) provides year-round sports training and competition for more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities