Once a week during the spring semester, several McDaniel College swimmers make their way down to Harlow Pool to help coach Special Olympics athletes as they prepare for their swimming season. I consider myself lucky to be a part of this group of McDaniel swim team members, and have ardently believed so since the mighty Carroll County Tigers (the local special Olympics team) started practicing at our pool four years ago – my freshman year.
Now a senior, I decided to take the time to reflect upon just why volunteering to help these fellow athletes for all these years has been such a rewarding experience, not only for me, but for my fellow teammates who choose to do this with me.
It was easy to remember why I started helping every Sunday with the Carroll County Tigers. My older sister, Jessica, competed in several Special Olympics back home in California and loved it. It was the highlight of her year. When I found myself in Maryland with an opportunity to help Special Olympics athletes in swimming, I knew I could not pass the opportunity.
As the years progressed, however, I found myself volunteering, and encouraging my teammates to volunteer, for an entirely different reason. I found the Special Olympics had a special element that few other activities in our day-to-day life possess: the ability to generate happiness. Not a passing happiness, either, but rather true, genuine happiness that my teammates and I were privileged to see on the faces of athletes that we helped coach every Saturday.
It was this quality, I realized, that kept my teammates and I coming back every week of every spring semester for four years. How often do opportunities come along that allow us to make someone’s day truly better – truly happier?
Chris Anderson, a long-time athlete with the Carroll County Tigers, said that the Special Olympics “is fun to do… with lots of friends and lots of sports!” When asked the same question, his teammate Richard Roebuck said Special Olympics practice “gives me great energy and gives your body a great workout!”
These athletes put into simple words what I could never express about the wonderful nature of this shared experience, and this remarkable ability to make the lives of dedicated athletes better.
The amazing part is that by simply showing up and lending a hand, my teammates and I became a part of something so much bigger. Even more amazing is that it really is that easy; after filling out a few forms, anyone can be a part of this experience. It is as simple as finding a local chapter and signing up, and in no time you can help generate just a little more genuine happiness in the world.