The Special in Special Olympics
16 years ago, God put an idea on Betsy Huggin’s heart. Before this, there were no local Special Olympic programs for 5-7 year olds.
And so she started one.
The first Young Athlete Special Olympics was held in the gymnasium of a local high school. As the years went by, the dream grew. Now Young Athletes is a part of the local Special Olympics in Cabarrus County. Many children have benefited.
“It has been amazing to watch the program grow and to see who God brings each year to be a part of it. ” Betsy Huggins
We have been blessed to volunteer with the Young Athletes for the last 3 years; and really see what Betsy built. It never gets old. Each year is a new experience, like the first time. She gives all the credit to God.
What is so special about the Special Olympic Young Athlete Program?
I am so glad you asked.
First, of course, there are the precious children.
All are labeled with disabilities. But once you meet them, all you see are abilities. Some kids are frightened by the stimulation, noise, and excitement. Some kids just take it all in. And some are what I call, ‘runners’. You gotta be on your toes if your a buddy to a runner. They excitedly run from event to event and you can lose them if you blink. They are all truly so special.
Second, there are the parents and teachers.
Not having a special needs child myself, it is hard to wrap my brain around the challenges of raising a child with disabilities. But I can only imagine the day to day struggles. The moment to moment struggles. The courage and bravery required when entering high stimuli environments or the dozens of hospital visits that are without end.
And as for the teachers, you have to have an extra big heart to love like that.
Third, there are the volunteers.
I met the most interesting people. Some come from local high schools, some from homeschools. Most are teenagers. They help with games and act as the child’s buddy for the day.
And they do the Cupid Shuffle when prompted. 🙂
The running of the torch is a tradition.
My favorite part is the athlete motto that is read on a loud speaker,
“Let me win. But if I do not win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
It is worth repeating. Daily. To myself.
After the opening ceremonies, volunteer buddies are matched with special kids.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
There are many action games and activities that are held inside and outside;
including, basketball, bubbles,
And even face painting.
There are all different kinds of volunteers.
Bill Kreitzer and his wife own Kreitzer’s Critter Corral, a Puppy Rescue. Joshua, a 3-legged therapy dog, is one of the sweetest dogs in the world. I mentioned him last year. This year they brought rescue puppies.
This little boy was so enchanted with the puppies that he couldn’t hold one fast enough. I saw him make a bee line across the diameter of the field, his face set with determination. When it was time to give her up, he kissed the puppy with such a sweetness before unwillingly handing the puppy to the volunteer. I will never forget it. It is amazing what animals can bring out in all of us, but there is a special connection with these kids. It is immeasurable.
Putting on the Special Olympics is quite an undertaking. There are the details of paperwork, set-up, lunch, coordination of volunteers, clean-up, and dozens of other details. But the fun part is handing out the medals.
Isaiah 40:31 But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
And then, of course, there are the mom volunteers. And how cool is that?!?!
Kudos to all the Special Olympics volunteers.
You really are special.
And thank you to Betsy, whose dream and vision blesses not only the children, but the parents, teachers, and the volunteers.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40