This June seventh grade student, Brenden Pauline, volunteered for the Maryland State Special Olympics at Towson State University. Special Olympics provides sports training and athletic competition for persons with intellectual disabilities, giving them opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship. Brenden served as an officiator for the bocce ball competition, and as an athlete escort for track and field events. Brenden’s duties as a volunteer included ensuring events were carried out in a respectful manner and accompanying athletes to their events. As an athlete escort, Brenden assisted with keeping track and field events running on schedule so all athletes were able to participate in the various activities offered. Additionally, Brenden helped athletes line up for their heat and walked them to awards ceremonies to receive recognition for their hard work. One of the most important jobs Brenden completed in both volunteer roles was encouraging all athletes to perform to the best of their ability.
According to Brenden, the entire service experience was a great one, as he enjoys sports and competition himself. Brenden reported one of the most valuable aspects of his experience being the ability to develop a different perspective about what is truly important in competitive sports and what it means to be an athlete. Brenden shares the insight he gained while working with Special Olympics athletes, “for them it was not about winning the events they participated in. It was about completing the event.” He indicated that he was inspired by the pure joy the athletes expressed in being a part of the games regardless of whether or not they came in first place. Brenden also felt inspired to witness athletes cheering on and championing their fellow athletes in ways that didn't focus on winning. Instead, focus was placed on finishing and giving it their best shot. Brenden looks forward to continuing his volunteer work with the Special Olympics, and hopes to assist with skiing and basketball this winter in addition to next year’s summer games.