Special Olympics Florida

Mardee Rath-Eamilao

Chair, Athlete Leadership, Monroe County

My volunteer experience with Special Olympics began when my son was required to do community service for extra credit in 7th grade. When we strolled onto the cycling and bocce practice track for the first time, we were welcomed with open arms by the coaches as well as the athletes. Thus, began our 9 year participation in volunteering!

We started out attending practices and helping with organizing the athletes. Then onto becoming partners to the athletes in bowling and bocce ball. I also took advantage of the many opportunities to attend coaches training in swimming, stand up paddle, cycling, and bocce. We have enjoyed the many trips to area games in Miami as well as the state games in Orlando.

Although my son’s participation has dwindled the last few years due to school and work obligations, he continued his training in cycling and joined the flag football team. Even though he excelled at football he really wanted to get a soccer team going. When he asked me to organize a team, I told him he had to help. So, he recruited athletes and partners while I worked on the administrative side. We are now into our second year with a unified soccer team.

When I heard about Special Olympics Athlete Leadership, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to work more closely with some of our athletes. I decided to volunteer as the coordinator. There are presently 10 trained and active athlete leaders. We have monthly meetings attended by athletes and their mentors, where we plan fundraisers, organize trips to community events and conduct our own trainings covering many different topics. Some of my most fond memories are of activities and events with our athletes and look forward to making many more with them!”