Volunteering At Special Olympics Essay

Looking for a place to volunteer? Want to feel the joy of watching athletes with intellectual disabilities work hard and excel in the various sports? Need to earn Community Service Requirements for high school graduation or church requirements? Whether you are looking for a few hours a week or month or a larger commitment, whether you can help with administrative/office work, fundraising or want to work hands-on coaching the athletes, Special Olympics Howard County can use you!

Individuals interesting in volunteering are required to attend a Volunteer Orientation class before working directly with Special Olympics athletes. Individual volunteers must be at least 14 years old or a freshman in high school. (A limited number of volunteer opportunities are available for younger volunteers when participating as a group and under adult supervision.) Additionally, families who are new to our program are strongly encouraged to attend a volunteer orientation.  The orientation will provide participants with a better understanding of what Special Olympics Howard County has to offer as well as our goals and needs. Pre-registration is required for all volunteer orientation classes. To register, send an email to janetlarrimore@somdhc.org.

Volunteer Orientations

The next Volunteer orientation will be held on Thursday, March 15, from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Anyone interested in volunteering must attend a volunteer orientation, complete a volunteer application and an on-line Protective Behaviors Course. Parents are highly encouraged to attend an orientation.  For more information and to register, contact Volunteer Coordinator Janet Larrimore. (JanetLarrimore@somdhc.org).

Future volunteer orientations will be held on:

Monday, April 16th
Thursday, May 17th

Volunteer Information

Best Practices for Coaches

Volunteer Application

Protective Behaviors Training

Student Scholarship Information

Through the generosity of four families,Special Olympics Howard County will award four scholarships to outstanding student volunteers who have been committed to the Special Olympics Howard County program as a volunteer and advocate of the athletes.  High school seniors and college students are eligible to apply.

The Jackie Burk Memorial Award for Outstanding Student Volunteer for Special Olympics Howard County ($1500) was created in 2004 by Jack and Linda Burk in memory of their daughter, Jackie, a special friend and volunteer to Special Olympics Howard County. The Allan Homes Award (up to $1,500) was established in 2005 by Allan and Kathy Waschak. Allan is a member of the SOHO Executive management team, Fundraiser Co-Chair, and Aquatics Coordinator. The Kathy Lindner Memorial Award ($500), in memory of Special Olympics Howard County’s first Volunteer Coordinator, was created in 2012.  Kathy was a dedicated volunteer in a number of sports, including the annual Softball Invitational. Added in 2018 is the Schnorf Family Scholarship (($1,500). Cole is a member of the Executive Management Team, Fundraising Co-Chair, and a basketball coach.  

Interested students must complete an application, provide at least one recommendation from a Special Olympics Howard County coach, management team member or sports coordinator, and write a 500 word essay about their experiences as a volunteer. Click here for an application.

Completed applications can be emailed to info@somdhc.org or mailed to Special Olympics Howard County, 8970 Route 108, Suite A-1, Columbia, MD 21045, ATTN: Scholarship Committee. Applications must be received by March 31, 2018.. Questions should be addressed to info@somdhc.org or by calling the SOHC office at 410-740-0500.

Sports at the Core

Special Olympics sports are transformative experiences that bring out pride, courage and joy in athletes – while inviting families and entire communities to join in the celebration. The Special Olympics sports experience has always been rooted in a radical notion: That every person has the capacity to be an Olympian, and that human greatness is defined more by the spirit than the body.

Sports are at the heart of Special Olympics because they are universal. Sports are understood and celebrated by all people, regardless of race, nationality, gender, economic level, religion and— thanks in large part to Special Olympics—intellectual ability. Athletes with and without intellectual disabilities compete according to the same rules and have the same motivations, the same goals, and reap the same benefits.[i]

Special Olympics is the world’s leading voice in elevating awareness of the needs and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Sports are at the heart, but our ultimate goal is to use stories of athletes’ achievements, skills and challenges to educate, engage and ultimately change attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities.

Measurable Life Enhancement

The Special Olympics experience fills a critical need in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, and the demonstration of competence to themselves, their families and the community. The improvements athletes make in social skills and friendships are often dramatic.   Special Olympics athletes learn developmental and life skills as the benefits of participation translate beyond sports, helping them to live more independent and rewarding lives.[ii]

By providing a platform for achievement and a large social network of teammates, coaches, family members and community groups, Special Olympics makes a measurable difference in the lives of athletes. In fact, at least 80% of families in the United States say they have seen improvements in their athletes’ self esteem, self confidence, social skills, friendships and health thanks to their participation in Special Olympics.[iii]

Special Olympics involvement also has positive effects on how family members relate to one another and to their athlete. A majority of parents in the U.S. (70%) report that Special Olympics has a positive effect on time spent as a family, either increasing the amount of time spent together or increasing the types of shared activities. This outlook is shared by siblings as well – 82% of who feel that Special Olympics has a positive impact on their family.[iv]

Anecdotal evidence suggests that volunteering with Special Olympics has a positive effect on all groups that work with the organization. Volunteers report a wide variety of benefits including personal satisfaction, increased tolerance, and re-examination of personal values.

Research indicates that Special Olympics can have a positive effect on members of the general public who have no relationship with the organization other than knowing about it, hearing others talk about it, and seeing its events on television or reading about them in the news. While it is harder to measure its effect on the general public, it is clear that the public in many places around the world is influenced by Special Olympics.Nonetheless, much progress still needs to be made for people with intellectual disabilities to be treated as equals in communities around the world.[v]

There are 381,071[vi] individuals with intellectual disabilities living in the State of Pennsylvania; 5.2% are enrolled in the Special Olympics Pennsylvania program. It is very important for us to continue our mission and to provide opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities whereby they are accepted, respected, and given the chance to become useful and productive citizens.[vii]



[i]Norins Bardon, J., Harada, C. M., Parker, R.C., and Brecklinghaus, S. (2008). Evaluation of the Special OlympicsEurope/Eurasia Unified Football Pilot-Project:Findings from Austria, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. Special Report for Special Olympics International. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Boston/Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center

[ii] Impact of Special Olympics Families, Special Olympics Toolkit

[iii]Siperstein, G.N., Harada, C.M., Parker, R.C., Hardman, M. L., McGuire, J. (2005) A Comprehensive Study of Special Olympics Programs in the United States.A Special Report for Special Olympics International. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Boston/Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center

[v] Special Olympics, Inc. (2009) Serving Athletes, Families, and the Community, the Universal Impact of Special Olympics: Challenging the Barriers for People with Intellectual Disability.

[vi] World Health Organization

[vii] Special Olympics North America

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