Volunteer County Director, Martin County
I am a retired Special Education Teacher of 38 years and have been a volunteer County Director for 42 years. I will never forget how I became a volunteer for Special Olympics Florida.
I attended the University of South Florida and majored in Mental Retardation, a term that is no longer used. I was in my last year and interning as a teacher when my Internship Advisor made me stay overnight and let me know I was going to a Special Olympics competition bright and early the next morning. I had no idea what Special Olympics was about at that time…. but I soon found out. I attended the competition and basically cried the entire event. They were tears of joy and amazement at the athletes and their participation. I left there with the most wonderful feeling about what my eyes had seen and what my heart felt. I was hooked!
I began my teaching career in Martin County, Florida and one thing I was sure of was that I would have a Special Olympics program for special needs children at my school. I began training my students after school. They felt like their peers without disabilities who had after school sports training.
They looked forward to sports activities after school. From there, we began having Special Olympics Field Days for all special needs students in the district. Soon, we were traveling to various competitions throughout Florida. What I began to witness was how Special Olympics transformed athletes to be more confident in themselves and the program gave them a sense of pride. Some had never stayed in a hotel before or ordered from a restaurant menu. The more I witnessed their transformation, the more involved I became.
I often tell others, Special Olympics has done more for me, than I could ever do for it. Special Olympics has given a purpose and meaning to my life: I make a difference in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. I provide an opportunity for them to feel accepted and celebrated, not for their disability, but for their accomplishments.
I will continue to give of myself to this wonderful Special Olympics program as much and I can.