Over the weekend I Had the privilege of volunteering at the Special Olympics Florida, held at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports. This event was held on Friday Nov 11th and Saturday Nov 12th, 2016. I was indescribably touched by this experience and each and every interaction with one of the athletes is now etched in my heart.
There have been a cumulative 43,478 unique athletes in multiple sports calculated as of 2015. There are over 90,000 competitions around the world each year for athletes that take place in training each & every day. The competitions serve as a source of education, family support, athlete pride and so much more. Volunteers are only a piece of the big picture.
On this occasion I was chosen to work with a newer part of the Special Olympics called Little Elites or Young Athletes. This program was designed for children ages 2.5 to 7 years of age and was created in 2006 at the request of parents to fill a need allowing child participation prior to their eligibility for the special Olympics. There were several stations this day that specifically focused on football & soccer. The stations included kicking, throwing, catching and other skills needed in the sports. I was stationed at a soccer skill station called “shooting”. Each athlete had to step up to one line & kick a ball from a second line in front of them, landing the ball between 2 cones for a score. They each had 5 tries at this and at the end were rewarded with a sticker on their card which had a spot for each different skill. Of course, every athlete got their sticker for trying and once their cards were filled with stickers, they were able to visit a booth that awarded them a ribbon & pin (mini medal) around their neck. There were stations for face painting & balloon twisting and they could dress up for a selfie with a Polaroid camera. Who knew those even existed anymore.
Once the Little Elites program came to a conclusion, each athlete was provided lunch and of course the day would not be complete without a visit from the big cheese himself. Mickey even came around to the tables for a visit & a few photos with the volunteers. Mickey was just the icing on the cake to this memorable day.
My volunteer shift lasted only 4.5 hours; not nearly long enough for me. I plan to sign up to volunteer for the larger special Olympics event set for the spring of 2017. I was extremely inspired by each and every individual, from the athletes to the coaches and even the program directors. This is a volunteer program that I am passionate about and I am counting down the days until my next opportunity.
If you are interested in volunteering for Disney, visit their volunteer website: https://www.espnwwos.com/volunteer-opportunities/
Maybe I’ll see you next year!
My name is Melissa and I am a mother of 2 young boys, deal seeker extraordinaire and a travel agent. I’m always looking for ways to give back to the wonderful Disney community that I have come to adore. Some of the best memories that Disney can create are memories of the heart & their volunteer opportunities will be unforgettable and heart warming. I hope I see you at an activity in the future.