The Special Olympics: Special for Everyone

On March 8, 2014, I had the privilege of volunteering at the Special Olympics of Maryland Basketball tournament here at McDaniel College. Opportunities like this look great on resumes, provide community service hours, and just make a person feel good for helping a wonderful cause. Though these things are true, opportunities like this offer many wonderful things beyond the surface. When I found out that my college was hosting a tournament, I immediately knew that I had to find whatever spreadsheet was out there and get my name on it before it filled up.

As an athlete myself, I’ve felt the inexplicable feelings of competition. I could never imagine denying anyone that thrill if they so seek it. Volunteering for a cause like this is an amazing way, as an athlete, to share the experience with people who would not have otherwise had the chance. The NCAA Division III SAAC has a national partnership with Special Olympics so it was absolutely incredible to see so many athletes interacting with the players and helping them to achieve their dreams. How special is that?

I could go on about how the experience changed me as an athlete, but I believe that my experience goes much deeper. My little brother (not-so-little anymore) is the light of my life. He is 10 years old now and growing up with him has truly opened my eyes to a much broader scope of the world and how I view people. We noticed early on that he was having difficulty with speaking and was delayed in a few aspects of verbal development. After searching for answers from schools and therapists and doctors, he was put on the autism spectrum at age 4. He has never made the diagnoses his excuse, nor has he fought his struggles with anything but grace and a smile. He truly is my inspiration and I could not be more thankful to learn from him and love him every day.

My favorite thing to do is to play golf with my brother. Sharing my passion with him is my definition of joy, not to mention he’s pretty good! I immediately could see that the sport was teaching him things and helping him grow in more ways than just making a putt. He was learning concentration skills, endurance skills, and most importantly, sportsmanship skills. All of this went unbeknownst to him as he was just excited to drive the golf cart!

Through my experiences with my brother, I knew from a young age that I wanted to help with the Special Olympics one day. I figured that sharing athletic experiences with people with special needs is a great way to bond and help them grow, like it does for my brother. I was fortunate enough to sign up as a Team Representative here at McDaniel at our basketball tournament, which meant that I could follow a team around and be a mentor as well as a personal cheerleader. I can honestly say that I have never met a friendlier group of people nor had a day filled with more hugs and smiles. That, in and of itself, was rewarding.

But the moment that left me speechless was in the middle of a big basketball game that my team was playing in. One of the players subbed out of the game to get some water. He was frustrated because his team was losing and they really had no chance of making a comeback. He looked at me with sweat pouring off of his face and said, “It’s okay, because I can’t control what the other team does. Only what I do.” He then walked back over towards his coach to get back in the game. His outlook is something that I will carry with me; especially at times when it feels like the world is plotting against me. His ability to see life with such clarity, even in the midst of a chaotic basketball game, will inspire me as I hope I inspired him that day. I thought that by volunteering, I would be helping the athletes… I could never have imagined the life lessons that they would teach me.

Volunteering for the Special Olympics is truly an experience unlike any other. The opportunity to help athletes pursue their dreams is a wonderful and humbling experience. The Special Olympics always welcomes volunteers, and it is a wonderful way to get involved and change lives. The Carroll County Special Olympics is hosting their annual Spring Games this year on April 30th, 2014. If you have any questions about getting involved, please contact Laurie Brewer, Area Director, at I encourage everyone, not even just athletes, to volunteer for the games. The lessons that it teaches you last far beyond the afternoon and you have the opportunity to leave these players with the same blessing.

22 Comments on "The Special Olympics: Special for Everyone"

  1. Edward Castilano0 | April 21, 2014 at 11:51 am |

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the participants of The Special Olympics. Your writing skill is admirable, and it perfectly conveys a perspective that all of us should live by. Thank you.
    Fairways and Greens!
    —Ed Castilano

  2. Lisa Stratton | April 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm |

    Hi Casey,

    Great writing about a great topic! I’m inspired. That’s the bottom line – inspiration!

    Take care, girlfriend!

    Lisa xoxo

  3. Suzanne Knapp | April 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm |

    Let’s see – Casey’s Commentary shows her to be an enthusiastic volunteer, an athlete and a special big sister, as well as a writer/promoter of all of the above – impressive and inspirational! Way to go, Casey!

  4. Kristy Rhodes | April 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm |

    I have known Casey since she was a baby when I met her and her mom at a playgroup for preschoolers. Her mom became one of my dearest friends and Casey and my son Caleb who was diagnosed with Asperger’s (also on autism spectrum)were buddies for years. Casey you inspire me with your outlook on life. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Special Olympics. You are right we learn just as much from those experiences than we give.

  5. Katie Callahan | April 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm |

    This is an absolutely beautiful article, Case!

  6. Mrs. Spittler | April 21, 2014 at 6:11 pm |

    As always, Casey, I enjoyed reading your writing! Your passion for helping others and the love you have for your brother brought tears to my eyes. Hope we can play some golf this summer!!

  7. Nancy Fenlon | April 21, 2014 at 6:23 pm |

    Lovely article Casey. Everyone can take away something from it!

  8. Claudia Griffin | April 21, 2014 at 6:31 pm |

    Well written and wonderful Casey!

  9. Lynne Carey | April 21, 2014 at 7:14 pm |

    Casey- This is a very nice piece, and more importantly the message comes across loud and clear. The greatest teacher is one who realizes he is always a student. Keeping an open mind is essential – for whatever the topic . Keep writing!! Well done!

  10. Ann & Bill Callahan | April 21, 2014 at 7:54 pm |

    Great article, wonderful insight-we all need to take the time to listen and learn from one another- every person has something to share.

  11. This is a very touching article. I wish more people could truly understand an inspiration such as this. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Hey Casey – thanks to Sue, Blake AND Max for being able to enjoy your special story. Obviously life beyond Norwich is blossoming for you, but still with the ties of home.
    Will look forward to seeing the changes and development again this summer.
    Cheers for now and congrats too – Col F

  13. Absolutely fantastic story, Casey.

  14. Wendy Ortolano | April 22, 2014 at 8:35 pm |

    Casey, well said! You have written a very moving article. You are so right: people with special needs have a lot to offer. Luckily they are often very patient teachers!

  15. Victoria Kappel | April 23, 2014 at 10:31 am |

    Casey, what a beautifully written and moving column! You are a wonderful writer and an even better big sis and advocate!!!

  16. Mary Dohner | April 23, 2014 at 11:10 am |

    Thank you for sharing your experiences as an athlete, a mentor, and a sister, Casey. Very inspiring!

  17. Janet Johnson | April 23, 2014 at 8:42 pm |

    Beautiful and inspiring article, Casey!

  18. Joe and Lou Ann McBride | April 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm |

    What a beautiful well written article. We are very proud of you and Max is the luckiest brother in the world!

  19. Sueann Edwards | April 25, 2014 at 11:45 am |

    Casey, Your article was beautifully written and is truly inspiring. Keep up the good work!

  20. Mrs. Schuchman | April 26, 2014 at 8:16 am |

    I always new you were special Casey, this is just more proof!

  21. Mrs. Schuchman | April 26, 2014 at 8:16 am |

    Casey- I always knew you were amazing, this just proves it!!

  22. Sue Marson | May 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm |

    Casey, now all your readers know what I’ve known all along! It would be impossible to overstate your kindness, goodness and compassion.

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