I can't begin to mention all of the work the volunteers do, but here are a few things I noticed––they encourage, cheer for, time, announce, stage athletes to prepare for races, guide athletes onto the track, take pictures, tape lines so the athletes (and coaches) aren't confused about where the athletes need to race, ready medals and ribbons, announce medals, make snow cones, paint faces, sing, dance, set up and take down tents, organize opening and closing ceremonies, listen, share, coach, love and on and on and on. (I haven't even mentioned the trillions of hours the paid SOUT staff put in.)
In addition to all of this, there was something I hadn't seen before this year. In a corner of the school, there was a back drop, stool, interviewer and camera where people were able to tell their personal Special Olympics story. I'd walk past the area each time I retrieved an athlete from Healthy Athletes. I was always in a hurry, but I still heard little snippets. Some were given by parents or coaches or siblings, volunteers or athletes. Storytelling is always powerful, but I can only imagine the power of these stories and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that one day I'll be able to tell about the many people with Special Olympics that have influenced me. I'll be watching for the stories they collected this year.
The thing is, all of these volunteers get together for the incredible, courageous, human, funny, witty, humbling athletes. And I am so thankful they let me be a part of it.